The vines stretch like green tendrils reached slowly, steadily across their blank backdrop. I find myself in this position often, lying on my back with my gaze drifting upwards to watch as Nature’s paint brushes living veins across the canvas made by the 1930’s walls. “How can I learn to be as patient as you?” I asked one day recently, asking of no one but myself, the plant, and maybe my sleeping dog with his reversed chocolate chip colored face smushed in between my legs. He probably couldn’t hear me and if he could, why should he listen? We’ve all heard these musings before.
The Seven of Pentacles appears to me every couple of months or so, so regularly and so often that I feel it rising to the surface of the deck before I flip it over. It’s essence and message a whisper in my ear, or the faint clicking of heels down a long, empty hallway. The click, clack starting as soft as a pin dropping at first, then louder and louder still as it matches the pace of my heartbeat, uncertain if the adrenaline is coming from the approaching of some unknown, the excitement of some arrival, the dread as it is informed by childhood memories of administrators pacing the halls, or some combination of the three.
Pop! Is it the fourth of July already? I thought fireworks were illegal here anyway. The sounds of the city (or the “city adjacent” space that is a city and is in the city but is not what people think when they think of The City) always begging me to come away from where I am. In this case, the sound of professional grade fireworks on a muggy July afternoon take me away from a reflection in which I write about the present as if it is the past, and muse about one of many houseplants as I lounge, half-dead and probably dehydrated, refusing to get up and disrupt a rare moment where not only are the words flowing but I can feel the soft vibration of my puppy’s throat as he snores gently on my calf. A rare intimacy. A brief moment of quiet that I neglect to sit in and appreciate these days. A flash in time where mind and body are working together to rest and release and I am able to be one with myself and the living beings around me. The once tornado of a dog twitches abruptly then settles, the interruptions of action in his dreams mirroring the delinquent joy of the bright, environmental hazards erupting down the street.
I recently took a writing intensive course that emphasized the importance of writing the draft first then editing later, and more importantly granted me permission to find my point as I work my way to the point of the story. Is this a story? Or a reflection? More like a release ritual, these words a handwritten love letter, or breakup letter, or analytical examination of someone who used to be close but is now only a name, jotted down in an emotional fury only to be balled up and tossed into a flame. Much like those rituals, this writing could be performed and shared with others, but really it’s for me. For me to release whatever weight in my chest is causing me to envy my pothos plant with it’s slow growing and seemingly infinite reach as I examine my home as representation of the life I’ve manifested around me and wonder why this plant and I cannot be the same.
I love the way my dog nuzzles his face into my legs, determined to get comfortable on the fleshy pillows that he cannot fluff, almost as much as I love the look of betrayal in his eyes whenever I change my position or, heaven forbid, get up and disrupt this comfort that he has finally found. “I’ll be right back”, I always tell him, but he is almost as quick to forget as he is to take my space on the couch as if he predicted that I would rise eventually and the snores and the nuzzling were all part of his plot to lie in waiting until his moment to strike finally came. An emmy-winning performance of the Seven of Pentacles in dog form. I’m jealous of the arms and legs of my plant but really I should turn my green-eyes towards the dog, or any other living thing in this space since apparently they have this patience thing down so much better than I.
I’m reminded immediately why I delayed my rehydration for so long — little messes everywhere. Plushy raccoons, fake vegetables with smiling faces, a knock off “Starbarks” coffee cup scattered, and other puppy debris scattered in landmines across the parquet floors. Crumpled, damp paper towels underneath a rose with half painted petals from the artist who left for a smoke break to never return. Coat hanger in the hallway littered with out of season jackets. Dishes piled up in the too small sink — you would never know that all of those meals were consumed by only one patron of this establishment rather than a family of 5. I go to fill the pitcher in the sink, taking note of all of the traces of my day that I’ve passed, and I’m filled with the familiar ache of wishing there was some other human form here to wash the dishes, to fill the water, to hold the dog, to hold me. I ache and I come back to my writing and I release and I ache some more. Maybe all of my writing works to release these same feelings from my chest. Over and over and over again in the hopes that they’ll some day subside. I haven’t stopped writing about or around this topic yet so the subsidence hasn’t happened yet.
I look back at artwork from various stages of my life and I’m proud but also sad as I wonder, “Why have I always felt so alone?” And now I look around at this space that I have curated and crafted “as representation of the life I’ve manifested around me”, and the ache grows as the responsibility creeps in. The knowledge of the responsibility, rather, as I’m reminded that the elephant in the room of my perceived loneliness is my design. A narrative that I’ve tried to work out and release through writing and dance and other art forms as of late and yet continue to perpetuate as I took this year and a half of isolation to decide that instead of being consumed by community I needed to petrify this narrative in age old oak that I Am Alone.
No wonder I’m day dreaming (or evening dreaming) of being like a plant. Comfortable in its relative solitude, held by its own roots.
I realized today that adulthood only feels like you’ve reached a plateau because your growth can no longer be marked by pencil in the door frame leading to the kitchen like it could have before. No one celebrates if your teeth fall out. Medical professionals might start to express concern if you started growing a few inches here and there. The hope of getting your work back with an “A” stamped in red is long gone. Friendships are not as easy as making the point to sit together at the cafeteria every day. Romance is something that you flip through these days, the concept of the crush, the ultimate long game, swiped to the left as carelessly as you toss an empty toilet paper roll into the trash. Maybe you’ll care to put in the effort to at least recycle it before you replace it with a new roll from the cupboard, fresh, the start sealed down, unstained, to repeat the process of use all over again until it’s inevitably time to discard.
I thought this writing was about living alone, about deciding to move out on my own during a time in which it would probably be good to have someone around in case I lost my sense of taste and then all of a sudden couldn’t breathe a few days down the line, but maybe it’s about romance too? About loss of childhood? About a loss of a time when the forms of love and company and connection didn’t matter as much as the fact that they were there. A reflection on a time, if there ever was one for me, where I didn’t need proof in the form of raw vulnerability and declarations of love every day to trust that the people around me actually cared, that the love was actually there, and it wasn’t there by coincidence of assigned seating but by genuine choice. Maybe this is about my own distrust for the people around me, and this could be me searching for some solution to move beyond that. To look at my “alone by design” mirror of my home and examine which plant, which book stack, which rug, which trinket could be the physical representation of that part of me that tells me that the people that love me are lying, or that I’m lying, or that none of us know. I need to find that treacherous trinket and Marie Kondo that shit out the door, to make room for some other piece that might bring more joy, reinforce more love, maybe even make me feel more at home.
But the thing is, I know when I’m lying and when I’m not when it comes to love. I know exactly the moment when I’m romantic with someone and I can feel that I love them. I know the precise shift that happens in friendships when I feel that the other person is someone who I’d rather not walk in life without. I know, now, those moments with family where I realize that I’m around them by choice and not because I don’t have a drivers’ license or anywhere else to go. Boom! Another firework. Shocking my heart as much as the realizations and admissions that come in those few moments when I find out the love isn’t shared. The feelings aren’t mutual and it’s time to toss the cardboard roll and start off fresh. And those few times are enough to create craters between those who have loved me all along as if those whose seasons in my life had come to a close mattered more. It’s a mismatching or mis-ranking of priorities it seems. A prioritization of rearranging a closet rather than keeping up with the dishes, because maybe the idea that if I get organized in one area all others will follow to be disappointed when the stained ceramic plates still stand, echoing the trickle down effect from impossibly stacked priorities that made its way to the area that needed the water in the first place.
I may take that strikethrough out later but I’m trying to stick to the “edit later” philosophy that came from the online class. I want to wrap this up so badly but my loneliness and my longing wrap miles around my apartment and my heart that all of my plants put together never could. What kind of gold star do I get when I turn this mental perspective around? What kind of reward will my life teachers grant me when I finally realize that I am not alone? In the blossoms of the garden that is my Seven of Pentacles. When I feel this card coming back up, I’m so focused on the message of patience that I forget the one that says to “be where you are” in all that is already ready to harvest from previous seeds that you have sown. And maybe as my writing demonstrates I’m already good at this, as the planting of the seed of the idea and watching it grow with the word count is often the easiest part, but rushing the harvest has a lot of my written fruit getting plucked while it’s still green. I could be like the vines with a little more trust. I could plant my seeds with the faith that even though I can’t see where all of *this* (hand-waves to the ether around me) is going, the manifestation and creation of all that’s around me is an indicator of where it could be, and a nudge towards the places that could use some more work. That could use some more invitations to connect and to be with others if that’s what I want, or to continue to cultivate space to meditate on where I am with myself, right now, as I choose.
I wonder if my pothos has a conscious knowledge of where leaves will sprout next. This vine that points towards the ceiling? The one that gently cups the golden, flower mirror frame? I wonder if I can have a conscious knowledge, if I get to choose if I grow a new leaf in romance or in writing aspirations or in my finances, or (and I think this one is the answer) if I just have to keep watering myself at the roots and trust that the new leaves will grow where they can best thrive. And that doesn’t mean that I’m not working on and growing in those areas that aren’t sprouting leaves like wildfire still. I may not be able to mark the inches of growth along the door frame but I can go inward, and deeper, and give my wide branches and leaves the support that they need to thrive. In adulthood, my growth and accomplishments, at least the ones that matter, may not require a trophy or GPA or other form of award, as it’s focused on the inner work that the outer world can’t see and may not know what to do with anyway. The inner awareness and inner strength that allows me to connect more deeply and intentionally to all that my extremities touch and experience and hold. And the patience that’s required so that my leaves learn how to curve and arch so that they don’t get burned. And the trust in the fact that they know, I know, how to follow the light to know when it’s time to shift and where it’s a new leaf’s turn to grow.
I’m still not sure how to conclude this writing, but maybe that leaf just hasn’t finished forming yet. The journey towards whatever this thread is teaching me is still in progress, the car still barreling down some long stretch of road in the middle of nowhere, the next exit stop not yet to be found. A vine that will grow endlessly and (seemingly) effortlessly as it reaches towards its Light. A visual representation of all that I have created up to this point, and a reminder of the beauty in the fact that whether I see it all the time or not, I continue to grow, too.