The Chinese Banyan in my clinic room has begun to look sick. It’s shedding leaves and, aside from a few at the tips of the branches, the rest of them are turning yellow.
This may not seem like a big deal but my plant, which only cost a few pounds from IKEA several years ago, was one of six that are a constant reminder of the phrase, “You are what you focus on.”
Getting the Banyan, the three cacti, and the two other ones that I don’t know the names of through the pandemic was a struggle.
I wasn’t in the clinic for months on end but even so, all but one of them made it.
The one that didn’t I kept on my windowsill after we resumed post-covid as both a reminder of what the world had been through and in contrast to the defiance shown by its erstwhile colleague, now flowering happily again.
One day I arrived at the clinic to find that someone had thrown out my little dead plant. I didn’t ask who because I didn’t want to have to explain why what they had done had hurt me so much.
I still think about that little dead plant often.
In my rucksack today I took a large carrier bag so that I could bring the Banyan home to re-pot and nurse back to health, but when I opened the door there was just a space in the corner where it sits between the fan and the lamp. My heart sank. Surely nobody had thrown out my ailing Banyan.
I hurried downstairs to reception feeling decidedly shaky.
“Do you know what’s happened to my plant?”
“It was losing its leaves and looking a bit sorry for itself so Julie took it home to re-pot it. It’s coming back.”
“I miss it,” I thought but didn’t say.
At home, the Aloe Vera that recently fell apart when I moved it to dust the piano has sprouted new leaves.
I put it by the window in the kitchen where I can keep a close eye on it.
I remove all the debris from its compost to give it plenty of space to regenerate. Through the open window, the jasmine has grown along the decking and is climbing in over the washing-up liquid.
Back at work, in the room with the bare space where the Banyan should be, I am talking with a client about confirmation bias.
When anxiety and negativity feel as if they are all consuming they create a self-fulfilling prophecy by pulling your attention towards other things that make you feel anxious and low.
Why is it that when we feel worried about the news we find ourselves lapping it up 24/7 strangely unable to pull away from the very source of our own discomfort?
“How do you change it?”
I break the unwritten therapists’ rule of always answering a question with a question.
Instead of, “What might it be like to change it?” I go with, “You become what you focus on.”
After rearranging the cacti and a few words of encouragement to the surviving twin of the unknown plants I make my way home again to deadhead the rose and write about why, when I focus on keeping beautiful things alive, the world feels more joyful and positive.