Reality Check: The Shamrock Plant

On a special occasion years ago, my Aunt Kathleen gifted me with a shamrock plant. For years, I’d admired hers. It flourished beautifully and was always in bloom. Now, I had my own!

My plant, however, isn’t quite so consistent in its performance. It goes through mysterious cycles. Although it gets the same amount of water and light all the time, sometimes it is blooming, thriving, and exquisite. Other times, it looks like it’s on death’s door, straggly, sparse, and flowerless.

While I was trimming the dead bits from this plant yet again, I had the opportunity to think about its behaviour. And, I came to some conclusions.

My first conclusion has to do with perception. After I had my plant for a while, I asked Aunt K why mine would be so inconsistent whereas hers was always so beautiful. Turns out that her plant actually didn’t bloom all the time, nor was it continuously beautiful! Who knew?

Granted, she had undoubtedly devoted more time to caring for her plant than I do. However, hers always looked lovely to me because I happened to see it only when it was lovely.

While our eyes and our experiences provide us with valuable information, it’s still important to remember that our perceptions and filters play a role in what we think we know. Just because we see something a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it is!

The second conclusion I reached is: Like so many things, this is out of my control. While I think that I am providing consistent care: water, food, light, heat and everything, the plant is “choosing” (or at least it seems that way) to respond inconsistently.

It’s as if it has a mind of its own. I can’t “make” that plant perform a certain way, any more than I can make another person perform a certain way. I can provide conditions that I think will be helpful, but there is a limit to what I can do. The plant has to do its part, too.

My third conclusion is that I have a choice in how I respond to this apparently uncontrollable phenomena. One possibility—perhaps I could get more control over it if I really tried.

I could collect data: How much light? How much water? How many dead leaves? How many flowers? I could put that data in a chart! I could draw conclusions. Perhaps I could find some correlations between something or other: the time of year, the watering, the phase of the moon. And maybe, just maybe, I could use that information to get more consistent shamrock plant performance.

Or I could choose to leave it as it is, in all of its inconsistent glory. I can choose to use it as a reminder that there is plenty around me that doesn’t respond exactly as I think it should.

Even though I think I am doing everything as it “should” be done (the right way) others—whether they are plants, animals, or yes…humans, have their own say in what they do. And I can’t control that. And, it’s probably just as well.

So, this plant has become an ever-present reminder of the limits of my influence. It reminds me to concentrate on changing the things that I can change, and not to let the unchangeable get to me.

Do you have reminders like that in your life?

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