You start out really excited about the new relationship. You’re going to be together until the very end, you are sure of that. The relationship will need to be sustained by ongoing maintenance, of course — which will come effortlessly because you feel so deeply that this is the one.
Then things come up. Life happens. You get busy with a new project or do a deep dive into your responsibilities at work. There might be the demands of family or friends or both. You might volunteer in your off-time, have a start-up or side hustle that’s taking a lot of energy, or you might start binge-watching a streaming series.
However it happens, one day you notice that your plant is dead. There were so many times you passed it in the hall, or where you sat it initially on a window sill, and it looked okay, right?
But now it’s dead. It is no longer an enviable, vibrant member of its species, whatever it was, to begin with.
You’re inevitably going to ask yourself, “Where did the time go?” You’re likely to remember that there were a few times you said to yourself that you were going to replant it, give it bigger growing quarters because it was starting to outgrow its pot.
And there were times that you knew you were going to have to check the soil to see if it needed water, but you forgot it when you got a new notification on your phone or a text message you had to respond to.
You might not have been sure that your plant was getting enough light where it was, and so you decided that you were going to move it to another location that had better conditions. Photosynthesis and all that.
Except that you never did any of these things.
And now, as you run your hand over your plant, you see that the only thing holding it seemingly together was the lack of touch. When your fingers brush it, a leaf comes away in your hand or drops to the dirt in the planter.
When they’re healthy, houseplants are beautiful; a philodendron, fern, or rubber tree plant can add a lovely dimension to a home, no matter how humble. But the strongest addition houseplants offer your life is something much greater than the touch of green they add to your living space.
Your houseplants, whether barely living, or growing and thriving, are a representation of your headspace at any given time, as well as a touchstone for how you are doing in your self-care.
Whether the leaves are coming away, burned by the sun, or the plant is drowning in root rot, the conditions of your houseplants are trying to tell you something. Not just about them — but about you.
Because of how accurately the health of your houseplants mirrors your self-care, they are also the perfect way to get in touch with where you are in your ability to be present in a relationship.
You’ve doubtless heard something along the lines of, “If you can’t be there for yourself, you can’t be there for anyone else.” Your houseplants are a visible mirror of your ability to show up, and because of this, it’s worth it for every person to have at least one houseplant.
What you’ll observe:
When you find you’ve been running yourself ragged, not getting enough sleep, and paying too much attention to the wrong things, check your plants. Odds are good they’re on their last leg; dried out and nearly dead.
As you remove dead leaves and give them some water, replant them, or add some plant food, it’s a time to reflect and relax for yourself, too — and know that they’re telling you something about slowing down, or at least managing your time in a gentler way.
When you’re the victim of a fixed idea, and you’ve been doing things around that one obsession and little else, check out your houseplant. If it needs care, it’s telling you to back off a little on that object of desire, slow it down, and spend some time taking care of yourself (and your plants). If your plants are dying but not dead, there may still time to turn it around.
You might be spending a lot of time on dating apps, just poking around to see who’s out there in the digital hinterlands. Poking around can lead to long sessions of texting, typing, or calling. Real-life can quickly fall by the wayside.
Checking your plants will give you an indication of how far you’ve gone over the deep end. Are your plants dying or dead? Take more time for meeting your own needs, and appreciating yourself. Reel in your searching for the perfect someone.
Let the situation breathe, and do some stuff just for you, starting with watering your plants.
Maybe you are starting a new relationship and find you’re putting a lot of effort into the fledgling relationship, and you don’t have enough time to yourself.
Or, you might be deeply in the midst of a relationship that’s going southwards and making you feel as if you are sucked dry of a vital life force. Your plants are likely to be feeling the fallout of your lack of energy and motivation because they won’t have been watered in some time.
You might be slacking off on needed time to do your own thing. Check your houseplants to find the answer. If they’re drooping from neglect, it’s likely that other aspects of your needed self-care are, too.
Do a self-care re-set by checking all your houseplants, removing dead branches, maybe starting shoots that are growing leggy in their own, separate pots, adding more soil if needed, and watering.
When your plants can are vibrant with life and growing, you can know that you’re in a good space in your corner of the universe — and likely are in a better frame of mind to build a relationship with another person; or grow the one you have now.
Bobi Morgan Wood’s novel, Eat the Coconut Doughnut, is coming soon.
This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.