• Kathie Scalf

Watering Dead Flowers


This morning I awoke to my usual “wake up and face the grind” rituals. After I took each dog downstairs separately for their walks and while my coffee (aka the nectar of life) was brewing, I shuffled out to the balcony to water my plants. Through my bleary, 6:45am eyes, I watched myself pouring pitcher upon pitcher of water onto the scraggly, sundried foliage still clinging to life in the window box on the railing. As the water flowed into the planter and directly out the bottom, the barren soil unable to retain moisture at this point, a simple thought occurred to me…this is a real waste of my time. And worse, it’s become a metaphor for a lot of things in my life.

As a creature of habit who thrives on routine, I easily fall into a rhythm of ritual; I find comfort in daily, mundane tasks. Having experienced so much chaos and change over the last 4 years, there’s a sort of peace found in the consistency of simple responsibilities others might find annoying- things like dog walking, washing the dishes, watering plants, laundry, etc. For me, it signifies stability.

But the tendency to live in comfort zones due to fear of change can be unhealthy and is quite unproductive. People like myself with Type A tendencies form these habits to create a sense of control, and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that you cannot control life; the best laid plans can and will go awry. Things change and at a certain point it doesn’t matter how much water or miracle grow you’re throwing on your flowers, they’ve run their course and it’s time to change them for a new season. Like my window boxes, some old things that were planted in my life during a previous season need to be dug up and replaced with something a bit more resilient to the changing elements.

I’ve changed a lot this year, more so than any time previously in my life. Quite frankly there are days I look in the mirror and truly feel like I’m looking at a stranger. I feel an odd disassociation to myself in a way that is very concerning; it’s like living in a dorm with someone from a different country who speaks a different language. Previously I would have random days where I woke up in a great mood, blasting my music and singing along on the way to my job, and I could not tell you the last time I’ve experienced that. Every day feels like just waking up and going through the motions feeling nothing-it’s not good, it’s not bad, and somehow that’s more disconcerting than waking up in an unexplained foul mood. My once-active social life has dwindled down to nothing but work, my friend group consists of 3 people who are always busy, my love life revolves on the same cycle of app boredom to disappointment so repeatedly that I can calculate exactly how long it’s going to last before we’ve ordered cocktails…there’s nothing of substance in my life right now. These mundane habits I’ve created in an effort to comfort the chaos have made me more uncomfortable than I’ve ever been, and I keep watering them even though they’ve served their purpose, died and need to be replaced.

I’m existing in a bizarre age at the moment, not just culturally but also this stage of my life. I’ll be 37 years old in a couple months and at this point there aren’t many people to connect with. All the women my age have children and families and due to those circumstances their lives look very different from mine. This leaves the only available people to hang out with being younger than me, who have not yet hit midlife and have a very different life experience that is centered around the superficiality of social media, or older divorced women who have grown children not much younger than myself and have a tendency to mother me rather than view me as a peer. While I no longer have the desire to be elbowed by belligerent drunks until 4am downtown, I also don’t want to spend every evening home in bed by 8pm watching the news. In the words of Kathy Bates in ‘Fried Green Tomatoes,’ “I’m too young to be old and too old to be young.” It sucks!

I desperately need something to ignite a fire in me. These old dried up plants of work and internet dating need to be replaced with passions and philanthropy. Part of the reason I used to be so social was because I spent much of my time serving on charity boards, but due to my 2019 move to a new city then Covid, I’m at a total loss where to get involved. I also had built a great friend group that went to the same hot yoga studio several times a week. Group fitness has always been a healthy way for me to build social connections but unfortunately it’s so expensive where I live I can’t justify paying for a membership, especially considering I have a gym in my neighborhood clubhouse that is already worked into my rent. However, even as I write this I can recognize I’m making excuses to stay in my comfort zone and if improving my life is truly important to me I will find a way to make it happen.

If you’re feeling a bit like me, maybe it’s time to refresh your patio. Put down some fresh dirt, plant some fall-hardy flowers and whisk away the cobwebs in the corners-both literally and figuratively. In spite of your best efforts, you can’t keep pouring your energy into things that are dead. I’m no longer the person I was; it’s time to stop doing the same crap, hoping it’s going to revive a past version of myself that I miss and am probably remembering much more fondly than she actually was. The beautiful thing is that I’m still growing into who I can be- a much more resilient plant who has weathered the sun and storms and still blooms. Kind of like a cactus.