Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Treating Plants Like Friends
I was lovin' the warm Santa Ana winds blowing through SB last week. There are few things I enjoy more than a warm night, where you can sit outside after dark in a tank top and not feel the slightest chill. I love our backyard; I feel so peaceful when I can sit out there (or look out from my bedroom window) and take in the city lights.
So its been really cold this week, but since last week was warmer than usual that meant that plants were needing more water. Every week I visit our listings to make sure they are still looking nice and clean and that the properties are at their maximum marketing potential. That includes watering all the plants that we use for staging. I made my weekly visit a little earlier to check on them because of the heat. Now I've always known that taking care of plants was not a strength of mine. Maybe that's putting it mildly. When I was an R.A. at Westmont the student life director gave all of the R.A.s plants in pots to keep in our rooms and take care of at the beginning of the year, to symbolize to us how we needed to nurture our residents and help them grow. Well, mine lasted about two weeks. I made sure nobody in my section figured out the symbolism behind the dried brown leaves on my poor little plant.
A few years later and I'm having trouble keeping plants under my care alive again. Sometimes a couple of the plants I water wilt or get brown leaves, and I can't understand what's wrong, since I'm watering them regularly! So I've been blaming it on the plants, not myself. Which is wrong, of course. And it has recently occurred to me that what I don't naturally do with plants (or other "things", for that matter), is what I focus on doing with people. Individualization.
Anna J. was recently talking about how she took the StrengthsFinder test and that Individualization came up as one of her top five strengths. She said this strength was the ability/desire to look for each person's unique traits and study the differences between people and how they interact based on those differences. I realized that this concept of "approaching people differently" is something I've always strived to do. I can't stand to be unoriginal in/unaware of my approach to others, whether it's how I talk to them or how I seek to understand them. It pained me back in the day to see others write in yearbooks, "You're soooo sweet! Have a nice summer!". Really pained me. Life is too short to be generic. Zero in on who a person is and what your relation to them is. Did they make you laugh in history class? Say so! Did they encourage others during soccer practice? Tell 'em. Whether I was close with someone or not, that was my yearbook-signing philosophy. To narrow in, to get specific with someone, I think that makes people feel known. I love feeling known, and I try to pass on that feeling. Base your responses and understanding of who you interact with on how they are an Individual. I think it's a key factor in making new friends, deepening old friendships, being a good parent to each of your different kids, winning over your boss, being a good teacher or R.A., etc. There are other key factors, but this is one gets less publicity.
So getting back to the plants, they, sorry to say, must not feel known. The ivies, the orchids, the potted trees, and all the other ones I don't know the names of... they aren't being treated like they are a unique type of plant. Do they need sun or not? Watering twice a week or every other? Heck if I know. But I'm going to get better at individualizing those Things in life that I generalize, like plants, laundry, and dishware. Both people and things flourish when you zero in on what makes them different from one another, and act accordingly.