A few months ago, we had to put down our beloved dog Roxie.
It was quick and unexpected and altogether heart-shattering. A few days later, our vet thoughtfully delivered a plant to our house which we placed on top of the piano where it is highly visible and receives a lot of sunlight. I have tended to it diligently ever since, as it feels like one of our last connections to the little pup who shared our lives for almost nine years.
But recently, my diligence has been interrupted by life. Every day for the last few weeks or so, in my rush to get the boys dressed, or fed, or out the door to school, I would look at the plant and make a note to water it soon. But I never got around to it.
The picture on the left was taken yesterday morning. Roxie's plant was drooping under the weight of my neglect. I watered it in a panic, hoping that it was not too late, willing it to spring back into vibrancy.
The picture on the right was taken only a few hours later.
I feel compelled to comment on the metaphor, obvious as it may be. Because it seems that far too many of us neglect ourselves, or our relationships, or our friendships. I, for one, have personally experienced the collapse, or the near collapse, of important connections in my life because I have deprived them of time and attention.
Time and attention. So easy to provide-- and as vital and as nourishing as water-- yet so often withheld. Never intentionally, of course. We do not neglect ourselves or our people on purpose.
Neglect is often passive in nature. We usually do have the best of intentions to pick up the phone and call, or send the random text message, or make it to that yoga class. But we never get around to it. And intention without action is empty.
Perhaps it isn't a person we are neglecting. Perhaps it is a vocation. Or a hobby. Or an activity that brings us joy. The end result is the same - we stand alone in our living rooms, clutching something dear to us, hoping that our panicked last minutes efforts will be enough to revive it. Sometime they are.
But sometimes they aren't.
I have come too close, too many times, to damaging something irreparably or losing it completely. Roxie's plant, a close relationship, my own health. I have set aside lifelong ambitions, vowing to get to them later when work is less hectic, or the boys are a little older, or when I'm not so tired. But those ambitions, those relationships, my health-- they are all crucial to my well-being. They are lifelines.
Isn't it strange how we neglect the very things in life that keep us living?
Recently I've realized that dealing with the fallout of my neglect is getting to be too much. Maybe I'm getting too old, or too tired. Hopefully I'm getting wiser. But I'm learning that it is far easier -- and far more nourishing for the soul-- to be proactive in our care for those things and people that we cherish. Waiting until they have almost slipped through our grasp is far too nerve-wracking and scary and soul crushing.
So from now on, I'm going to try to just water the damn plants.