You’ve heard the analogy, right? The idea that in a relationship there is a gardener and a flower. I heard about this idea years ago from a friend. I don’t remember how it came up or giving much attention to it. I just said, “huh,” and moved on.
Recently, this idea has come up a couple of times, mostly on TV dramas strangely, but it made me stop. I started thinking about this idea in the context of my own relationships and the transitions that have been taking place since the start of year.
What I’ve realized is that, holy shit, I have definitely been the Gardener. In so many of my relationships, I have taken care of the foundation and watched others grow and bloom and find success. To be clear, this is an important role, and it’s definitely not a bad thing, especially if being a nurturer is something that fulfills you.
Here’s the deal. At the start of the year, I started singing with a choir. I used to sing in choirs, a cappella groups, and perform in shows around town (usually there were Drag Queens, costumes, and songs from Rent involved). I’ve loved singing since I was a little kid, and I have missed it so much. It has been a struggle to find the right place for it in my life as I’ve gotten older and more introverted because the things I was doing before stopped feeling right, but this has been the perfect fit.
For the last several years, I’ve been stuck in a routine of work, home, occasionally yoga, and going to Harrison’s shows. For a the first few years of our relationship, it was his various music projects, and now it’s his comedy shows. I have for sure been the Gardener in this relationship. And again, there is nothing wrong with that. I have loved watching everything Harrison has done, and I’ve loved even more when I can help him manage his many side hustles by hauling sound equipment, working the door, or critiquing a joke. Basically, I’ve made myself EXTREMELY available. My routine became the deepest of ruts, and while I have loved being there for Harrison, I wasn’t being honest with myself about the things I was missing.
Harrison is going from being basically the sole receiver to having to give a little bit, and sometimes take the role of the Gardener. And it has not been easy. So much so that I have felt an ever-so-slight bit of guilt for being less available for him or for asking and even – dare I say it – demanding support. It doesn’t help that women are professionals at this kind of guilt. There’s this silent struggle over whose commitment is more important or who gets to use the car we share to get to the thing they need to get to instead of taking the bus or a Lyft.
It’s a work in progress. Sharing sun is hard when someone has been making sure you get as much of it as possible for years… since we’re using a flower analogy.
My relationship with Harrison isn’t the only relationship in which I have been the constantly available and reliable person who can definitely pick you up from the airport because I definitely don’t have anything else going on. As life has become busier and filled with more commitments, it’s given me clearer picture of which friendships in my life are mutually supportive, and which ones have existed on a foundation of me being available for favors. That’s not to say there isn’t more to those friendships. There is, but you start noticing who shows up when you have something to show up for. Some of the people who show up might surprise you, and the people who don’t might surprise you just as much. It’s a big deal when people show up.
I made a quiet commitment to myself to get back to the things that have made me feel most like myself, and I’m taking small steps in a direction that finally feels right. I’ve always been hyper-aware of the time I ask of others, and it’s generally made me uncomfortable to ask a lot of others. But listen, it’s my damn turn to be a damn flower. Just sometimes. Is that cool?
I hope so. Because I think I was well on my way to becoming something much, much, much lower than an overly available and less than fulfilled Gardner – the doormat the work boots sit on.