Reflections with my calathea
On the surface, today was a good day. I usually tend to all my plants on Sunday; it’s a ritual I look forward to. It’s finally spring so I can fertilise and up-pot. A good friend and I usually get our nails done every couple of months on Sunday.
My favourite plant has spider mites. I had to buy her some special oil and insecticide and quarantine her. At the nail salon, the Vietnamese women made fun of my L’origine du monde pin. As many Viets, they don’t know that I’m Vietnamese and am fluent.
So they said a bunch of nasty shit about me in Vietnamese (for you non-Vietnamese speakers, I’ll assure you this is rare; most salons are very kind and busy talking about other shit, not talking shit about you). I tried to focus on my friend but couldn’t. My stomach, tight.
Shit like this happens all the time. We all deal with people being rude. Most days, I brush off dozens of microaggressions and passive aggressive shit. I’m a Portland native. I was cultivated for temperate rain and passive aggressive shit. Move on, right? Well, I tried.
Depression is an oceanic undercurrent. I can be fine one moment, floating through my day and something will pull me under. Sometimes the force is strong and fast, other times it’s slow and nagging. Something about the combination of having to isolate my calathea hit me.
I am like my calathea. Isolated from where she was supposed to grow, a tropical sunny place, infested with this mildly harmful mite that isn’t an immediate threat, but it’s eating away at her very slowly. I am isolated from where I’m supposed to be too.
I am a brown girl in a white world who isn’t American despite what my passport says. When I go to Vietnam, I’ll be an American girl in a Vietnamese world despite what my lineage says. So I don’t belong here nor there. I wouldn’t thrive there, just like I don’t here.
I have so much to be happy about, as friends and family remind me. And I am. I’m grateful for all my privileges. And I hurt. I have a lot to be sad about, too. I’m unfortunately capable of holding a lot—in my mind, in my heart, and in my soul.
It’s what I evolved to handle. My dual existence, or non-existence, is what gave me immense resilience. But it also made me acutely aware of everything around me. My heightened observational skills are survival mechanisms.
So when former colleagues criticised my sensitivity as a negative and undesirable work trait, it hurt. I have to be sensitive to survive. I can’t always turn it on or off, though I’ve gained the skills of hiding and showing it, for the most part. When I observe what I do, and others don’t believe me, it makes sense. Not everyone is forced to evolve in this way.
But we’re all different plants, really.
What gave me my light pink stripes, as if delicately painted by an Impressionist hand, and my dark green leaves, is also what made me susceptible to mites. What gives me my appearance gives me my pain. I isolated myself to not share my infestation, but then it leaves me alone.