I do not do well with indoor house plants. You can ask my daughter Sophie about this because she gave me very precise instructions about how not to kill my fiddle leaf fig, and it has already sported brown spots of death.
Last week I was working in my yard, and I realized that I treat my outdoor plants the same. They have to do the work. They can’t be delicate or needy. Suffice to say, most of my thriving plants outdoors are hardy and suited for the climate in North Texas, otherwise they’ll die from my neglect.
As I was doing a bit of maintenance, I had one of those strange epiphanies that come every couple of years. My attitude was this: plants should not be needy. They should not require care. They should figure it out and just keep living.
I connected this to my childhood. If I had “allowed” myself to be needy, if I gave in to the elements pushing against me, I would certainly not survive or thrive. No. I had to endure. Keep walking. Keep going. Keep trying. I could not be needy. I could not be broken beyond repair.
I had to repair myself.
Fast forward to last week when I watched The Queen’s Gambit with my husband. In one of the episodes, the main character (a victim of horrific neglect and orphanhood) begins to break down, turning to alcohol and drugs as she simultaneously stunned people with her chess playing intellect.
I got livid. Just ask my husband.
“She can’t do that!” I said.
“Drink. Take drugs. She has to keep going, and she continues on this path, she’ll ruin it all.”
I could feel my ire mix with panic. “It’s just a show,” I told myself.
In that space, I sensed God’s question: Why does this bother you so much?
Perhaps this is why. The character did what I would not allow myself to do. She broke beneath the weight of her story. But I endured. Instead, the words keep going, keep going, keep going became my anthem. Neglect was my normal, and I learned to thrive in it.
Problem is, I’m grown up now. I am not neglected. I don’t have to force my way through life. I can acknowledge my weakness and take care of myself. Self-nurturing is alien to me–almost like pulling teeth, which is its own strange analogy.
This all makes me long for that Day when my tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more grieving what was and what wasn’t. I realize as I type this that I’m not whole, that I still bend beneath the weight of my trauma, even as I yell at the TV.
I’m reminded of Jesus at the end of his life, sweating blood before he faced the ultimate endurance of death and paying for my sins. He persevered too. So maybe instead of berating myself for dutifully persevering through my childhood, I should commend little Mary for her grit, offer herself the grace she couldn’t give herself, and open my heart up for more healing.
That’s my prayer today.
I love your emotional integrity, Mary. I pray to be so brave and write as honestly as you. Blessings!
You can! You will!