Miracle Max and the Practice of Self-Care

Miracle Max: It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.

Inigo Montoya: What’s that?

Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

I thought of this quote from The Princess Bride while weeding around the rose bush in front of my house. A month ago, the bush was mostly dead. I had neglected to water it sufficiently during a particularly hot week when the temperatures neared 100°F, and most of the leaves withered and turned brown. I realized my mistake and (apologetically) began watering it almost every night. A few weeks later, I saw new leaves begin to form. And then a bud. And another. And now the bush is in full bloom with bright pink roses. A month ago, the bush was mostly dead—or rather, slightly alive. And slightly alive means there’s still time for Miracle Max to do his work.

The rose bush and a few other plants needed extra care for revitalization, and I have had to learn more about plants in order to care for them properly. In the process, I have learned about caring for myself. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from my adventures in gardening:

1. Change with your circumstances. The rose bush I bought advertised itself as easy maintenance and came with instructions to water it once a week. I followed the instructions but didn’t think to depart from the standard and water it more than once a week when the weather got hotter and the temperatures consistently reached the upper 90s. In the heat, the plant wasn’t receiving as much hydration as it needed for its systems to function properly. The leaves turned brown, starting at the tips and slowly creeping toward the stem until the whole leaf withered and fell. We risk a similar burnout when we do not care for ourselves adequately during times of additional stress. What may typically be “enough” can be far from sufficient under different and more difficult circumstances. For example, this summer has been especially busy at my office, and while I am usually content to eat lunch at my desk, I have had to be more intentional about taking an actual lunch break. I need the time away from my computer and outside the office to get some mental rest and regain the energy I need to return to my work and do it well. A walk outside was a necessary departure from the standard. For others, this adjustment might look like an earlier bedtime to give rest to a tired body or more time with God to revive a weary spirit.

2. Cut away what is dead. When caring for an orchid, it is important to cut down the bud spike (the stem on which the flowers bloom) after the buds fall off. Otherwise, the plant will continue sending nutrients to the empty stem when it could be redirecting that energy to growing new leaves or roots. Or as Jesus says in John 15:2, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Likewise, it is important to cut away from our lives what is taking energy but not producing fruit; it is only stealing from areas where growth is waiting to occur. Perhaps this dead branch is a toxic relationship or yet another activity to which you have committed your last hour of free time. If you are like me, saying “no” is a learned skill but one that is necessary in order to dedicate our time and energy to the areas that are developing fruit.

3. Continue nourishing what is alive. My orchid has been pretty sad looking recently and was thought to be “all dead.” When I sent a picture of the plant to the company that sold the orchid, they told me it had been dead for quite some time. The plant was only “mostly dead,” though. It had been growing new roots before the leaves started to dry up, so something was happening. I trimmed the dry bud spike down even further and cut the leaves back to where it was still a vibrant green. And I kept watering the plant. I recently took a closer look at the plant and discovered new growth developing at the base of the orchid. I’m not sure if this is a new bud spike or a new leaf forming, but it’s a sign of life. In a broader sense, it may be an easy solution to throw everything away and start over when something seems “all dead,” but nourishing what is still alive—investing your energy into what works and what is eager to receive your efforts—eventually reveals growth and new life.

Ever since I started caring for the new plants at my house, others have claimed I am a “green thumb,” but I am just a first-time gardener learning as I go along and trying to keep plants alive. (There are plants that have not been as fortunate as the rose bush and orchid.) In the same sense, I am also still learning to care for myself and understand what it takes to experience growth and new life.

The Bachelor… My Way

I don’t really follow The Bachelor (normally I tune into the last 10 or 15 minutes so that I don’t miss a minute of Castle), but for some reason, the show is slowly sucking me in. The last 15 minutes has expanded to 30 minutes to one hour. I’m turning from someone who has The Bachelor on in the background while I grab snacks in the kitchen to someone who watches The Bachelor on purpose.

I admit that I’ve looked at the application for the show, and while I meet the eligibility requirements, I wonder how far the producers would let me go through the audition process before eliminating me. I doubt I would actually ever apply or even truly want to be on the show, because I’m so cynical about the whole experience. I mean, whoever says they are on the show to find love is lying to themselves… But if I were on The Bachelor or got to be the Bachelorette, here’s how it would go down:

If I were one of the many girls fighting for The Bachelor, I would…
… get to know all of the other girls in the house and be friendly to them. I would be so nice, they’d never have anything bad to say about me to the Bachelor.
… not steal the Bachelor from another girl during their one-on-one time. Instead, I’d say, “When you’re finished talking with her, could you meet me on the patio? There’s something I wanted to talk with you about.” Sure, there’s the definite possibility someone else would steal him or he’d just forget that I was waiting for him, but at least the girl he was with wouldn’t have a reason to revenge-steal him away from me. And maybe he’d notice I wasn’t crazy and inconsiderate but patient and kind instead.
… take the Bachelor to my parents’ house on the hometown date. He’d have to try my mom’s home-cooked Filipino food and meet my dad. Maybe the extended family would be there, too – and that’s a lot of Filipinos. Then we would take a two-hour road trip to where I currently live, where he would meet some of my friends from college, church, and work. If he survives all of that (and if everyone doesn’t completely humiliate me), then I guess he’s alright.
… refuse his wedding proposal, assuming I made it to the final round and he wanted to marry me. Instead, I’d ask that we try dating each other exclusively rather than him dating (and making out with) several women at the same time. If, after dating like normal people without cameras around and other women going on dates with us, he still wanted to get married, then maybe I’d say yes. And I would inform him of my plan earlier in the season so that my refusal wouldn’t catch him off guard and so he would have the opportunity to send me home if he were only looking for someone to say yes on the big finale show.
… wear pants more often. I could still look good and feel comfortable at the same time. I mean, is it really necessary to wear a dress that looks like it’s just a shirt?

If I were the Bachelorette and guys were fighting over me, I would…
… make at least one of the cocktail parties alcohol-free so that I could see which of the guys were naturally fun to be with and which ones only had booze-induced humor.
… not go on destination dates that required me to wear a bathing suit on national television.
… make the guys compete in a dance-off. The best dancers and the guys who had the most fun continue to the next round. The guys who are too proud or too embarrassed to dance get sent home.
… spend nearly all one-on-one dates watching movies or YouTube videos while eating take-out food and ice cream.
… make one of those movies The Princess Bride. Every guy in the Top 4 has to watch it with me. If he loves it or can quote nearly every line, he can stay. If he hates it or makes no attempt at enjoying it, then goodbye.
… spend the other one-on-one dates doing volunteer work or some kind of charitable act. (They did this on this week’s episode of The Bachelor, and I thought it was a fantastic idea. I think they should do this more often!)

If you were on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, what would you do?