I Killed My Orchid

I bought a beautiful magenta orchid at Whole Foods the other day as a treat for myself. I named her "Daisy" because my son likes to name his stuffed animals after other animals. For example, his plush giraffe's name happens to be "Goat." Because my son is five years old. So, my orchid's name is Daisy. As in Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby. And I'm slowly killing her. Daisy, my orchid, is one of the most gorgeous flowers ever, and I can't seem to keep her alive. 

My older brother once wrote me a poem about how I was an orchid. Let me see if I can find it and share it with you. Years ago, I told my husband, Andrew, about this poem, and he sent me an article in The Atlantic about "orchid children" by David Dobbs. You can read the full article here.  It says, "Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care." Andrew told me that he thought I was like an orchid, but that he loved my high-maintenance nature. He said I was special and beautiful because of it. His words made me cry. All these years of marriage, he has faithfully and tenderly given me "greenhouse care." But now, my orchid is dying, and it's my fault.

You would think after 37 years that I would know how to take care of myself. Sun, water, soil. I thought I had slowly entrenched my roots into the earth to a point where I would not easily bend or break. Yet here I am. 

Here, I found it - the poem my brother wrote about me. I remembered it being about an orchid, but it was actually a daisy.

Ever So Slightly Poisoned Daisy

Flower steadfast in wind

Laughing smiling within

If they knew I thought

What I think

Or had a drink

Gasp

Like an ever so slightly poisoned

Daisy Exposed

I am who I am

A beautiful White Daisy

Occasionally spontaneously flashing

Purple

Gasp.

-Isaac Cronkhite

I think I was about 19 when my brother wrote that poem for me in pencil in his little pocket notebook he carried around with him. Two years later, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after some rather spontaneously flashing purple behavior. Now, my life is made up of the "daisy" years and the "orchid" periods. What is it like to maintain two different identities?  I absolutely love being an orchid. I love color and the vim and vigor of life. I glow. Yet, most of the time I'm an orchid trapped in the form of a plain, white daisy. Day in, day out, I survive. I know that Andrew thinks of me as an orchid, but the truth is that I'm much easier to live with when I'm a daisy. 

As David Dobbs writes, "Together, the steady dandelions and the mercurial orchids offer an adaptive flexibility that neither can provide alone. Together, they open a path to otherwise unreachable individual and collective achievements." I will never be a dandelion. I'm just not tough enough to withstand a strong wind.