a dumb move?

My new cactus plant in my office window...for now

For most of my life, I’ve said, “I’m not good with plants” and this has become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  The 2 that did really well, and grew to be almost tree-like, were a jade plant and a rosemary, both of which I gave away when I left Vermont 11 years ago to go work in a mission. Over the past few weeks, friends have offered me both a jade plant and a rosemary, and I really wanted them so I said yes. I was not always aware that our words create our realities. Saying, “I’m no good with plants” was, in my mind, simply telling the truth, stating a fact. I know better now and realized that I needed to start talking and thinking differently about this area of my life if I wanted it to change.

I was walking through the farmer’s market on Sunday and the plant person had this really big (about 3 feet tall) cactus for sale. I loved the look of it, have always liked cactus plants, and it was only $30, so I bought it, and thought, “I am going to change my belief that I am not good with plants. I am going to learn about plants, take care of them well and have a beautiful variety.” I felt very happy with my purchase.

A man helped the plant lady carry my cactus to the car, but it was heavy and part of it was sticking out. As they were trying to get onto the floor of the front seat, I grabbed the stem that was stuck on the outside of the car, and felt sharp, painful little pricks. I was in shock. I couldn’t really see what was going on but it felt like I had been stung by nettles. Once the cactus was inside and the car door closed, I drove about 10 feet and pulled over so I could put my glasses on and look at my hand. It was covered in little yellow hair-like spikes.

I felt dumb. Who doesn’t know not to grab a cactus plant? Me. I had tweezers in the car, and sat in the parking lot, for a while, pulling the thorns out. I suddenly didn’t feel that good about my purchase. I didn’t know what to do. My head started in. Why did I buy this plant that I know nothing about? I am terrible with plants. What am I going to do with it? How am I even going to get it out of my car? I can’t take it home and have it around the cats and Luke. If they touch it, they’ll get spiked too. I won’t be able to keep it when we move to Maine. The woman said that it will have to be re-potted in 3 to 4 years, how could I do that if I can’t even touch it? Can the spikes be removed?…..I was on a roll and it wasn’t good.

Finally I drove to Jack’s shop and he said, “I’ll grab some gloves and bring it up to your office”. I agreed to Jack’s temporary plan, since I could not see an alternative, and knew that I couldn’t drive around with it in the front seat of my car indefinitely. I wasn’t wild about looking at, what at the time felt like a “mistake” every time I entered my office, but I needed a solution and had none at the moment.

It has only been 2 days but I feel differently about this experience now, I’m even a little excited to see what will come of this.

There is so much value in sharing our “screw-ups” with loving friends. I think it would be fun and helpful to hear about other’s experiences too; what things you have done that seemed dumb at the time, but something good came from it, or you learned a valuable lesson (even if that was to laugh at yourself). So if this sounds like fun to you, let’s hear it!

I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge”. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

19 thoughts on “a dumb move?”

  1. You’re not dumb. Years ago, I moved to New Mexico and decided on my first day there to explore this new desert terrain. It was the rainy season, so all the cacti were lovely and in bloom — and so enticing. I reach down to “pick” one, as you’d pick any beautiful plant, and found my hand full of nettles. Then, adding insult to injury, I put my thumb up to my mouth to help get rid of the spikes. Stupid, all the way around.

    1. janpogue, I, too, moved to New Mexico, and have learned that only (otherwise) smart people, not “dumb animals”, touch cacti. So Mary, it would be perfectly safe for your animals to have the cactus in your house, but perhaps not for you and Jack!

  2. OK, since I’m among friends, I’ll share a laugh at yourself moment that was beyond embarrassing and has nothing to do with cacti. Last fall I was invited to a fish fry at my sister’s house. There were mostly neighbors and friends of theirs at this, didn’t know most of them, plus some family. They had a fire in the fire pit and people were sitting around it. I told my sister I was leaving (had an hr and a half drive home) and she said “oh sit, stay a while yet.” So I sat in the folding chair beside her and felt it slowly tip backwards and I had no control whatever on how I’d land. Well, I was flat on my back with my legs in the air, and then, to add insult to injury, I farted. I knew, I just knew, I had to laugh and let these people off the hook because they were simply dying from holding it in. My nephew’s still laughing, told his mom he thinks he’s peaked at 30 with the funniest thing that’s ever happened. Glad to have made that memory for him! I wanted to crawl to the car but am glad I was able to respond the way I did and have been told what a “good sport” I was!

    1. Thanks Sally – I started to write “I am having a hard day” – and now I am laughing with tears streaming down my cheeks… thanks for sharing that humiliating moment – we all have had them – and who knows – you never know when one is around the corner!

    2. Sally~ an otherwise ordinary fish fry will remain in family stories for years to come! You gave them the gift of laughter and a righteous exit lesson in humility. I love having friends like this!

  3. Well, Desert Susan can certainly relate to cacti and their barbs and thorns. I was more scared of the cactus when my kids were small than the swimming pool as far as the chance of them falling into one or the other. And some like the jumping cholla honestly can leap off the plant if your body is too near and attach themselves to you. Nothing, absolutely nothing worse than if your dog gets a cluster in his paw, and they do not understand “hold still while I attempt to pull them out of your paw, and in the process bravely plant them in my own hand. . ” Even the seemingly furry innocuous ones seem to easily implant themselves. Mary, for sure, GLOVES! and not too much water. Sally, you are a wonderful sport to share your upside down moment! – here’s a pic of the jumping cholla – I think Jon Katz would love to photgraph them however – when they are backlit with sunshine in the morning, they are just breathtaking – from a distance! http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/jumping_cholla.htm

  4. One of my most embarrassing moments was driving into standing water and locking my engine completely totaling my car. I figured if I went fast enough I could get away without having to follow that “silly” rule that apparently everyone who drives knows that you should never drive into standing water.

    You know you’ve done something embarrassing when folks look at you shaking their heads and laughing before you get to the “punch” line. This, semi-fortunately has happened to me quite often. I apparently enjoy sharing my life lessons even when everyone else sends to have learned them the old-fashioned way; by listening to the wise. However, it does seem to put us all at ease.

    1. I can actually see how it is possible to learn from others mistakes Susan…I never knew that you couldn’t drive through standing water…thank you for that!

  5. Hmm, checking in tonight, and I see that only 3 have really confessed an embarrassing moment – that includes me, not coming up with a doozer – I have to believe we’ll all get there and maybe even top off dear Sally’s upside down moment. Hey, I’d love for my two sons to tell me someday that I was the highlight happy rollover lose it moment of their first 30 years of life! Hats off to Sally!! Good night dear friends!

  6. My moment was when I was dating my husband and we were on one of our first group dates. Eating in a fancy restaurant trying to look alluring and sexy as I sneezed and shot wine and snot all over everyone. I could have died. He still remembers and laughs.

  7. What a great read today was! Love the replies! I, too, have a cactus story. Being from Canada, we don’t have cactus growing wild. On our first trip to Arizona and on our first stop (for a washroom) I saw the most beautiful shaped cacti growing with gorgeous round red bulbs (fruit?) on them. While my husband walked ahead, I made a beeline for the red things and, just like a little kid, reached out to touch and hold one. I KNEW the cactus was prickly–who knew the red things would be too? I can still feel the little tiny spines stuck in my hand like a thousand stinging wasps and the feeling lasts for years, I swear. My husband’s look of disbelief did not make me feel any better! Luckily for him, he has never mentioned it again.

  8. Sally Brechbill…”OK, since I’m among friends”- thanks for sharing your story, I’m grateful to be included in your flock of feathered friends…

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