leatherpetal

I am *this close* to giving up on having succulents, and it feels like some terrible metaphor for my life.

You'd think that if I could keep a 135 pound dog alive for ten years, a bit of greenery would be easy. Nope. I've spent the past several months just cold murdering potted plants with my tortuously paced ineptitude. I'm sure if they could speak they'd beg me to just get on with it, already. Dump them in the bin or feed them to a cat or whatever dramatic way a houseplant might shuffle off its mortal coil.

It all started with the best of intentions. Not mine--those of my former coworker, Jamie.

At the beginning of this year, Jamie broke up with his boyfriend and needed a place to hide out. Jamie is one of the most delightful people I've ever met. Far too smart for his own good. Better read than almost anyone I studied with--or under. Snarky, self-aware, creative, and a natural born wit. He was one of the best things about my job, for the year we worked together. So I was happy to offer half of a king-sized mattress.

Jamie crashed with me for a couple of nights while he collected the shards of his young life, and we stayed up late swapping tales of romantic woe and family dysfunction. We told stories about our pets that had us laughing to the point of tears. And then, intuiting that we occupy an adequately safe distance from one another emotionally and socially, we held a mutual, judgment-free confessional about our respective addictions. We marveled at how easy it is to fuck up despite having, relatively speaking, everything you need not to. It was great.

And when Jamie decided that his best move was, in fact, back home to the east coast to lick his wounds for a bit, he gave me a very thoughtful present before leaving. He'd noticed what my apartment lacked--life other than my own--and gifted me a lovely little leatherpetal, hardily anchored in a ceramic pot he'd thrown himself. I was touched. I was terrified of killing it. I warned him that my first floor studio gets hardly any sun.

"That's okay," he said. "If you can read by it, it's enough light for a succulent."

"All I read anymore is Twitter. You know that."

He glared at me with affectionate exasperation. "Just put it in your windowsill."

Well I'm sorry, but my windowsills already have tenants: horizontal wooden blinds. And while a normal person would just leave the blinds raised a few inches to accommodate a plant or two, and no big deal, I am not a normal person. I'm too bothered by the asymmetry. Asymmetry will kill me one day, I just know it. I'll be reaching to adjust something off-kilter and I'll trip and break my neck. Here Lies Ellie, my gravestone will read. She Just Fucking Had to Straighten It.

Anyway, I compromised and started leaving the plants, plural (because Jamie's needed a friend, and then another, and then another, and then...) in the windowsill while I was at work. I called it putting them in daylight care, which I found totally hilarious, like all my jokes.

But of course, sunlight is only one factor in the life of green things. Water is the other. And while I was given clear enough instruction by Jamie and Google ("Soak it, let it dry out. Repeat."), that proved too complicated for me, because I could never tell where in the soaking or drying-out stages my little green charges were. Every day before leaving I would stare hard at these ill-fated orphans, waiting for them to give me some sign that today was Watering Day. But they were mum. So I guessed. And I guess I guessed poorly. Because my poor plants are poorly. Poor me.

I am strangely proud of the fact that I snuffed my succulents from too little attention rather than too much. That feels like growth of a sort. I wasn't smothering or clingy for once, with someone something. Instead, when I found them inscrutable and myself powerless to love them how they needed to be loved--I let go.

Which is not to say that I won't eventually start over fresh, with renewed faith and optimism. I can buy a variety pack of twenty--twenty!--live succulents off Amazon for, like, forty bucks. If my kill rate drops to just 90%, that still leaves me with four.

So maybe I can rework the metaphor. Because what else can you do, when you want beautiful things in your life? You give them what you think they need--and you hope they're strong enough to withstand your abuse.

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So it appears that I owe some of you both a thank you and an apology--a thankology. This morning in an attempt to link my Sephora app (new) to my Sephora card (v. old), I signed into the email I'd used to set up the card ages ago - the same email that I have listed on my about page. And it had been months since I'd signed into that email -- I had no idea I had a virtual stack of unread letters from readers. I am so sorry, and holy shit, am I so grateful. They are beautiful and so thoughtful, and I will answer each one as soon as I can.