SUPPORTING MYSELF SO I CAN SUPPORT OTHERS
This morning, I was showered & dressed — all before 8 AM. I was supposed to meet a new friend about 35 miles away in Canandaigua for breakfast, and I was really looking forward to connecting with her.
I dashed off a quick text to her before getting into my car. “Are we still on for 10 AM?” I queried.
She never responded.
I figured she was probably on her way to meet me and unable to text, so I took a leap of faith and hopped onto to the New York State Thruway heading east. Just as I pulled into Ray’s Diner, my phone rang.
“Oh, my God!” Jessica said. “I totally forgot.”
Now, I like to think of myself as someone who has pretty good self-esteem. But when someone flat out forgets about plans that you’d made together, it just doesn’t feel good.
Suddenly, I felt all those hurt emotions spiraling into my chest: that familiar tightness along with all those old beliefs echoing in my ears.
You are invisible.
This time, however, I took a breath & gave my friend a little grace.
“I’m disappointed because I was looking forward to our time together,” I said. “But I understand things like this happen.”
Jessica felt terrible. She apologized profusely and even offered to Venmo me money for my gas, my time, my breakfast.
I assured her that I wasn’t angry (because I wasn’t), and I told her that I was just going to have a nice leisurely breakfast for one (which I did).
While sitting in the diner, eating my eggs and sipping a cup of coffee, I thought back to when I was going thru my divorce, how upended I felt after each meeting with the lawyers, about how out of control I felt about all of it. A friend who had been through her own divorce suggested that I build in a little reward for “making it thru” those emotionally draining appointments and, soon after, I started a practice of buying myself a single indoor houseplant after each heart-wrenching session.
Y’all, I bought a lot of plants.
A few years later, when I moved into my own house, all these plants came with me. I’ve continued to dote on them, making sure to provide them with the right environment — sunlight, water and nutrients — to promote maximum growth.
Back to this morning.
After a satisfying solo breakfast at Ray’s, I went outside and noticed that directly across the street from the diner, there is a cute little place called Mayflowers Nursery & Garden Center. I’d never been there before, but it’s a sweet place with a nice assortment of garden statues and tons of healthy plants and flowers.
Impulsively, I purchased four plump ornamental grasses and stuffed them into my car. (Seriously tho, my car is packed up in anticipation of the New York Lavender Festival this weekend in Red Creek, and there isn’t much room in there.)
On the drive back from Canandaigua, with those spiky grasses repeatedly stabbing the backs of my arms, I found myself singing.
I wasn’t upset about anything at all.
In fact, I’d enjoyed my alone time.
Back in Rochester, I dug four holes. Deep ones. And beneath a weird sepia-color sky (due to the smoke from the ongoing Canadian wildfires), I sunk those ornamental grasses in my garden, and stood back to admire my work.
This story might not sound like a big deal, but it represents how much inner work I have done over the last decade. There was a time in my life where I would have spiraled into despair over a small event like this, accruing cosmic evidence to prove there is something wrong with me.
I’ve worked hard to unthink those thoughts and maintain an internal state of tranquility. These days, I’m at ease within myself. I’ve developed a sense of self-compassion and am (mostly) unruffled by day-to-day worries.
Anyway, today marks the first time I bought myself plants because I wanted them, not because I needed them to cope with something upsetting.
In my work as a recovery coach, I introduce people to skills to help them develop the self-control to manage their difficult emotions and work to understand them. Emotionally mature individuals don’t view emotions as a weakness. Instead, we value them and don’t try to hide them. Acknowledging one’s feelings and learning from past experiences — even if you struggle to let go of them — means you have strong emotional intelligence. Part of emotional maturity is understanding that we can’t become emotionally mature in a week and carry that title through life. It demands effort and dedication to growing through all stages of life.
If you know what I’m talking about, all of this will make perfect sense to you. If you are confused or would like more information about what these ‘skills’ might be, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.