I Am My Own Beloved Houseplant


I am soooo excited because my hope philodendron — which has been slowly dying back all winter and which I had kinda given up on — has sprouted two new leaves! HIGH FIVE FOR HOPE (philodendrons) ! 

I never would have written about this a year ago, because the ability to care about houseplants is something that has only recently sprouted in me. For years I killed every green thing I brought into my home, but not anymore. I talk to my plants, I pet them, I check when they need water, I trim their old leaves, I pot them in pretty containers … 

But mostly, I just pay attention to them. If the leaves are droopy, or yellowing, or looking too mushy, I give them a drink or put them in a different sunbeam or let them sit on a warm surface until the soil dries a bit … but there’s no amount of persuasion or yelling that will make an unwell plant happy again. I just have to tweak its surroundings and pay attention to what happens. That’s the extent of the tools I have to work with. 

This seems like common sense, right? Growth doesn’t happen because you force it or threaten it or scare it. You can’t shame a plant into growing faster or becoming healthier or more beautiful. Growth happens only when the conditions are right. 

So, knowing this about growth I have to wonder, why do so many of us try to scare or shame ourselves into it? Does it work, or could it be that using fear tactics as disciplinary tools against ourselves makes us LESS likely to grow? 

For me, I know that when I try to humiliate or terrify myself into making a change, what actually happens is that I shrink back from the leading edge of my growth. I become smaller and more fearful and it just doesn’t help. 

I have found a different approach, though, and it seems to work a lot better — that is tweaking my surroundings and paying attention to what happens. AKA, treating myself like my own houseplant. 

Instead of yelling at myself for not doing yoga, I try to think of ways I can make it easier and more attractive for me to do it, like leaving my mat out all the time, pairing it with another habit, and/or adding some pleasure to it in the form of a playlist that I love. 

Instead of feeling like a lazy whore when I haven’t gotten out for a walk in a few days, I make a date to meet a friend at a coffee shop I can walk to, and this motivates me to put on a bra and get out there. 

Instead of being frustrated with the fact that I don’t get to be creative at my job, I spend a little time in the morning before work on my own projects (like this newsletter) to exercise that muscle and set me up for a happy productive day. And I have my writing gear set up and ready the night before, to make it as easy as possible to get started when I wake up. 

None of this is to say that I never beat myself up for not doing yoga, or that I never feel like a lazy whore, or that I never get frustrated at my job. But I get a lot more yoga, walks, and creative work in than I used to, simply by tweaking the circumstances of my everyday life and paying attention to what works. 

All of these environmental conditions help me grow towards joy and possibility, and I discovered them not through hating on myself but by treating myself with love. Talking to myself sweetly. Making up stupid, cute, encouraging songs. Reminding myself how much I can grow when I’m in the right environment. 

In short, I am my own beloved houseplant, friends, and it works a lot better than being my own drill sergeant. By understanding how growth works — it can never be forced, it will simply happen when the conditions are right — I’m able to support myself. And look, I keep sprouting these sweet new leaves and dropping old ones, and I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s meant to work, right? 

Are you getting all the sunlight, water, fresh air, laughter, orgasms, chocolate, etc that you need to grow the way you want to grow? I hope so, but if not … try some tiny tweaks to help yourself out, and let me know how it goes!