This begins about a decade ago now. I had recently moved to a new area and only had one good friend at all nearby. Some of my friends from back home came down for a visit, but I seemed out of their range for the most part. Months of self pitying/destructive behavior led me to give therapy a try. I started seeing a therapist that did way more to help me than I imagined anyone was capable of. I also started on meds to aide my depression and anxiety, which helped when I finally figured out the type and dosage. Neither could touch the feeling of uselessness I constantly carried. I somehow felt that while most everyone liked me, nobody in the world (not blood related) has or ever would truly love me. I could only see myself as a momentary passing interest for the inbetweens in the lives of others; not an actual important event, just the sideshow. I could not be convinced that a single person needed me, and I would only reluctantly give in to my therapist that I wasn’t a burden to all. I felt that every relationship and friendship in my life was hanging by a thread I was sure to break (so I of course put on scissorhands).
I was just as skeptical about the house plant being of any benefit to my loneliness when I was in the checkout lane at Lowe’s, as I was on the couch in my therapists office when she had suggested it. However, I had felt refreshed in the atmosphere of the lawn and garden department, and had immediately known what plant I wanted when I’d eyed it. It had dark green leaves with red veins spreading out across them. The tag said it needed low maintenance, and it was called a “Red Anne.” The name reminded me of Anna Paquin’s character Sookie in True Blood. I had just binge watched one of the early seasons on Netflix when it still came as dvds in the mail. The red veins looked like something that would be tempting to any vampire. Not just Bunnicula, but Eric as well. I figured out before I made it to my car that I had a problem with naming plants. She was already Sookie.
My therapists reasoning behind the house plant was that I needed to know that something needed me. She thought it would be best if I started simple – especially after hearing my story about killing off a family of gold fish in a place I was house sitting – so we decided on a house plant. My low self confidence made a plant that was easy maintenance ideal for me. I admired Sookie for a couple of days, but she only needed waters a little bit a couple times a week, so I soon lost sight of her needing much more than a pretty picture on the wall would need dusting. I eventually forgot about her altogether.
I rose bleary eyes from my bed at the sound of my alarm. My eyes quickly swept past the spot I had found my favorite pet ever, Wally, on the floor. I had felt much the same at first that morning too. That night before, I had taken a big bong hit while Wally was asleep on my chest and a massive lung clearing cough had scared him to a leap into the darkness at the foot of my bed. I passed out immediately, and woke to find him stiff and lifeless near the foot of my bed. I’d never cried like that before. As my eyes tried to skip that spot I. The floor where I had found him, I looked up at the pot that contained Sookie on my counter. Sookie’s stems were hanging withered and limp over the sides, and there were dead leaves on the counter. My heart instantly sank. I’d killed the one thing that needed me. I felt it was a good thing no one needed me, because their care would be just as poor.
I added a large cupful of water along with a couple tears to Sookie’s pot, just so I could say I tried. I was already running late for work, so I quickly showered and dressed. As I grabbed my keys on the way out the door, I glanced back over to Sookie’s pot on the counter. She was fully restored! Her stems had gone from flat and shriveled to taut to the point of robustness. Her veined leaves weren’t mushy wads, but proud banners of her health. It cheered me immediately. Even after I had given up, everything turned out fine. After a session or two with my therapist, I was fairly convinced that Sookie could be a metaphor for my loneliness and feelings of uselessness. It had only taken a little water from me to make her alive again, maybe it could be the same for me. It was hard for me to see a drop of water in what I felt was an endless drought, but if I could help water others I wanted to. I also had expressed feelings that all the friendships and relationships I had were hanging by a thread that I was so scared of snapping that I tried to cut it myself. The toughness of Sookie, supposedly, was like the toughness of friends. I didn’t have to treat them as if they were fragile, because true ones were tough and would be there regardless. I eventually gained enough love and respect for myself that I felt I could function outside of therapy. Sookie has played a part in my development, but I eventually lost sight of or never saw some of her lessons. I, for a short time, tested out her restorative powers. They were pretty impressive. I could let her drop down until she was almost completely collapsed on her dirt bed, and then watch her spring back to life in minutes. The process was in general too slow to really see as it happened, but here and there and kink in a stem would come out and the whole section would suddenly spring erect. I quit when I thought it was cruel. I didn’t process that humans could do the same type of thing to each other, not excluding myself.
Years later, Sookie was still around. I’d gotten a Lab puppy after my dad passed, and I had found some friends and relationships. She lost some of my attention, but I still kept her as happy and healthy as I could. My later-to-be-ex then knocked her off the counter accidentally one day. I’d immediately repotted her as well as I could, but about half of her shriveled up and died. She had shed all her pst self and was starting to look healthy again when my pre-ex and I got in an argument. In a rage, she threw Sookie at me. I didn’t know whether to duck or attempt a catch. It was an inaccurate toss and Sookie’s pot shattered on the hardwood floor several feet away from me. The shards tore Sookie to shreds.
My pre-ex informed me she was pregnant a week or two latter. It was a stressful time and eventually I thought that maybe another plant would help settle my nerves a bit. Sookie 2’s veins were more orange than red, but she was definitely a relative. I was working on the road a lot doing siding during the pregnancy, and my pre-ex was put in charge of her care while I was away. About the time I was finally accepting this plant as Sookie, I came home to find nothing but some shrunken twigs in Sookie 2’s pot. My pre-ex hadn’t forgotten about her, but had paid too much attention to her and drowned her to death. Just because you give Love to something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are good for it.
“I’ve got that feeling once again…things come round, full circle.” – misquoted Rock Stars.
Divorce, mass exodus / genocide of friendships, push back against alcoholism, and 50% reduction in time with the one thing I love the most. All feelings seem to come back around; just the reasons behind them change.
I had the sudden urge to visit Lowe’s today. I always get lost at Lowe’s, but today I went directly where I wanted. The first row of house plants had nothing of interest to me. There was a small forest of potted ferns at the end of the row that tried to intermingle with each other from across the aisle. The feeling of the fronds on my short sleeved arms and freshly shaved face brought a calm to me and eased my miserable countenance. I breathed in the earthy aroma as I turned the corner. Then I saw her. She was the only of her kind to be found, and she was the spitting image of her grandmother. A smile crept over my face as I gently picked up Sookie III.