Release of the Peace Lily

Today, planting a peace lily turned into an unexpected ritual of forgiveness and blessing.

Several years ago, my husband took a small peace lily to work, planted in a professional-looking gray plastic pot. He enjoyed and nurtured the plant to the point of flourishing and then, over time, collapse. It was severely root bound, many leaves had died, and it looked really terrible, no longer a plant that nourished his work life. So a few weeks ago, he brought it home and I hacked it down to little brownish yellow stubs, with just a few new small struggling leaves in the hopes that it would revive and regrow. It has started to do that, much hampered by my kitty’s constant noshing on the leaf tips.

Then, recently, a young woman in my life whom I associated with on an almost daily basis and hoped would become a dear friend, moved out of the area. Among her discarded items were my disappointment at the failed relationship as well as a sweet little flowered ceramic pot I had given her several months ago with a prayer plant in it. This is a plant that requires very little attention, just water once in a while, and it seems to survive about any kind of treatment. I thought she would appreciate the symbolism, too, of the prayer plant. However, the pot was full of dry dirt, with no evidence that there had ever been a beautiful green living being in it, and no stains in the water dish to indicate the plant had been watered over time. A couple of other small gifts from me were also in the pile.

Because of the situation of our circumstances together, this was a relationship for which I had high hopes; there was a large age differential and I wanted to bring mentoring and mothering energy to this young woman. My attempts were met with superficial smiles, secrecy, and, over time, my realization that not only would we not become friends, but that she was actively shutting me out. This was very painful to me, and I vacillated between hurt, understanding, spaciousness, resentment, and dislike, all while trying to continue to offer her loving and compassionate presence as she navigated her life. It was hard at times because I saw her on an almost daily basis; I had never experienced a relationship with someone where the interactions felt so shallow and closed down, but without any obvious problem or conflict; I second-guessed myself repeatedly. I speculated about what was going on for her — psychological wounds, mother issues, resentment against me, plain old “dislike,” among other things — but ultimately, the truth is that the relationship did not materialize, and I will probably never see her again. I was able to say goodbye — without a hug or handshake, of course — and move forward seemingly without looking back. A relief, really.

Yesterday I decided to buy a small replacement peace lily for my husband, put it into the plastic pot he liked, and give it to him to bring back to his desk as work. What to do with the poor hacked peace lily I was trying to nurture back to beauty? The dead-soil, sweet-flowered ceramic pot was perfect; I really liked it and it deserved a new incarnation. Out in the backyard, where I had a new batch of compost — my second batch ever — ready for use, I emptied the dead dirt from the ceramic pot, putting it into my compost bin to be remixed and refreshed with all the bacteria, enzymes, probiotics, insects, and dead plant matter for some future project. I placed fresh potting soil and compost and then the peace lily, short and stubby but green and alive, into that beautiful little pot. As I was working, I thought of my lost friend, and began blessing her, out loud: May you be full of life and potential, and find your deep, rich soil; may the lost, dead, broken places in your life and heart come back to life. May you find containers for your beauty and your power, and may you have the courage to water them and stay present to them as they grow and flourish. May you be at peace, may you recognize your ability to connect. May peace grow in your heart where your prayers and hopes have died.

In this impromptu ritual and blessing, I think I found forgiveness through the act of reclaiming what I felt she had thrown away. No need to understand why. No need to punish her for it or to think meanly about her. Instead, a desire to claim for her the life she could not, at least around me. And, so I got what I wanted: to mentor, mother, impact this young woman with love, compassion, and acceptance. Although she is now far away and does not consciously know this has happened, the release I am offering belongs to her nonetheless. May you find your connected, flourishing place in the world, sweet one; hold out for it — it’s coming.

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