Friday, April 9, 2010

houseplant anxiety

Maybe it's a control thing. Maybe it's just that I like to watch things grow, and I don't know what to do when they don't. Maybe it's my lack of actual knowledge about the subject. Maybe it's my natural, instinctive, urge to nurture. Maybe I'm just getting used to a new hobby. No, it's definitely a control thing.

My houseplants.

The backstory: My mom's house is full of plants. My grandma's house is full of plants. They are both gardeners. Excellent gardeners, might I add, who keep SUPERB houses and whose houseplants are always green, full, and thriving. So when I was at home for Christmas, enticed by green thumb I thought would be inherent in my blood, I collected a bunch of cuttings from my mom and my grandmother. Then, when I got home, I planted them in my new Ikea pots bought especially for the occasion, and assumed in a matter of weeks I would have plants just those found in my home and peeking out from the tops of bookshelves and bedside tables on pretty much every Apartment Therapy home tour I've seen.

But that's not what happened.

Well, I don't actually know what happened, but there were no full, thriving plants to be found in my home. There were sad and brown, and what little leaves they had were in tatters--and I'd like to think that wasn't all because of Starlee eating them--I did at least attempt to move them out of her reach. Anyway, I immediately assumed failure. Which didn't sit well.

I could think about absolutely nothing else. I started obsessively worrying about the condition of my houseplants. Researching on the internet, adjusting their placement around the house, asking people for advice, calling and texting my mom--sometimes more than once a day. I spent literally hours wondering if I should water them more, water them less, fertilize? Constantly agonizing--what was I doing wrong?

As it turns out, I wasn't doing anything wrong. What I was doing really, really well was exerting every single ounce of energy I had lying around to taking control. Of something. Anything, really. Because this is the most out of control I've been, over huge life/future things...soon, no more school, no job, no idea where I'll be living for the next few years at least, while Kaylee is off all over the country visiting schools making the biggest decision of her life thus far. And there I was grasping at straws, desperately trying to make my silly plants just grow--that's all I wanted. Because that's all I could do. Until she visited everywhere, and we talked, weighed options, and made a decision together, all I could really justify worrying about were my plants.

Now, I'm starting to regain control. I brought my plants to my grandma's house for a little TLC over Easter weekend, and things are actually looking much better. They are green, leafy, and (on the road to) flourishing. I got lots of helpful advice from all the plant-growers in my family. And, I now know where I'm going to be living next year. (Well, what city, at least). I still can't really believe how my anxiety manifested itself, but at least it wasn't too unhealthy. And it's getting better now--I probably spend less than an hour a day worrying about my plants! Because they look awesome now. Just like my future.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


This was my submission for CofC NOW's Look Book, our activism project compiling people's stories about their bodies. Available soon at a (yet to be determined) location near you!

I got my first one when I was eighteen, and it literally shocked my mother into silence. She stopped speaking to me for several days. Not all reactions have been quite as strong since then. They usually garner some concerned looks, a variety of complements, frequent questions—what does that one mean?

Each one tells a story. There’s the lotus on my back that I got in my hometown, surrounded by women who love me, to represent the rebirth I felt when I came out. The equal sign on my wrist from Seattle, with new friends. The radish from Portland, Oregon, reminding me that change should be radical, always beginning at the roots. And of course, the fateful four-leaf clover on my foot that may once have expressed teenage rebellion but now reminds me how lucky I am to have the countless good things in my life I do—including a concerned mother and a family that cares about me as much as mine does.

They represent what is important to me—important enough to permanently attach to myself—and they let me speak my mind without ever having to open my mouth. My tattoos represent me taking a stand about what goes on my body. No one can decide that but me.
Most days I love them. I’m glad they’re there, showcasing my ideals to the world even when I don’t feel like talking. More than anything, I like that they show everyone I have the ability to make my own, life-changing decisions for myself. Yep, I did it, I don’t regret it, and I’m not looking back.

Occasionally the thought passes my mind that maybe getting these tattoos was a bit of a rash decision—what about when I get old and saggy? But thoughts like that are fleeting and always overshadowed by the fact that I made that rash decision myself. It’s empowering.
In a world that’s constantly trying to make me feel like I am utterly incapable of that, that I’m better off with other people making my decisions for me—about my body, who I should love, what I should say, how I should act—it’s a reminder that I need. My tattoos are my autonomy, evidenced right there on my body—for me.

Photo credit to Wesley Laudeman, photog extraordinare.