Succulent on a windowsill. 35mm Kodak film on Olympus OM 2N.

Succulent on a windowsill. 35mm Kodak film on Olympus OM 2N.

This article was originally posted  in Hearth Magazine in 2014

MY APATHY toward tedious, adult tasks like wearing underpants, using clean cutlery and mopping the floors has killed my succulent plants, I’m sure of it. 

Gifted to me by my overly ambitious mother, these succulents are now under my charge. With tentative hands I took these little plants and their optimistically juicy buds into my life. Henceforth I'm charged with the task of caring for another living being. And two months down the track, I’m fairly certain I’ve killed the little buggers.

There they sit, in the corner of the living room, their pallid, soft leaves protruding from the soil like little white hands, giving me a two-fingered repost as they wither and die. I recently rushed past their appointed place on the coffee table and knocked them to the floor. The dirt spilled on the carpet like blood in a Friday night fight out the front of a fish and chip shop. I failed to pick them up and re-pot them for three days. I’m seriously neglecting the one living thing in my life, and I couldn’t really care less.

Unfortunately for my succulents, I’ve been too busy lying in bed all day, shrouded under the doona with the curtains drawn, focusing on deep breathing and attempting to avert an existential crisis. I am acutely aware of my self-inflicted sphere of exile and the damage it is causing to my little succulents. I really ought to nip down to the shops and buy some plant food or some new soil and at least try to revive them. Instead, all I ever think of doing is lounging about on the floor in my underpants, listening to Nick Cave CDs on repeat and wallowing in the pathetic institution that is my life. Occasionally I do attempt to reach out and establish a connection with them. I’ll water them on hot days. I’ll sit next to them, seething in my silent frustration before shouting aloud to them, “What am I even doing with my life?” And, thanks to their inability to talk back, I am clueless to my life's purpose.

Leaning against the bar at the local pub recently, wine glass in hand as one friend conversed with another, it occurred to me that really, we’re all just over grown children, clutching smeared glasses, having these grandiose conversations that we don’t really understand as we attempt to conceal the panic that we all harbour internally. Or at least, that’s how I feel. And I hate that. The greatest amount of commitment I am willing to allow in my life at present is that of a spoon and a jar of Nutella, perhaps the soundtrack to Moonrise Kingdom played on repeat for an hour while I gently fry onions and garlic in a listless, blithe way. Screw the succulents. I’ve got my own problems.

But, hello, what is this? A bud on one of the plants has come into blossom this very afternoon. Its leaves are looking plump and full of hope, and that singular, bright red flower assures me that maybe everything will be alright. Maybe I haven’t completely failed at life just yet. One day, I may rise from the bed like a phoenix from the ashes. I may blossom from the winter of my discontent. I may throw open the curtains, and I might brush my teeth. And I will sit down at my computer and finish my novel. I will put on a clean shirt and be happy forever more.

And I really will attempt to sort out my succulent garden. Once and for all.

Made StuchberyComment