Ejo #139 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Zimmy Khan

TW//suicide

I met Zimmy in 2011, nearly ten and a half years ago.  I had just experienced two of the darkest years of my life and desperately needed help getting out of the deep, pitch-black hole I was in.  I’d consulted a couple of psychologists in Dubai, who had not been able to help me.  It’s the only time in my life I remember feeling such hopelessness, darkness, loneliness and desperation.  And then one day, I read an article in Time Out Dubai about a very special therapist called Zimmy Khan.  It felt like a dim light shining in the distance, and I ran towards it.  I checked out her website and wrote her an email. The subject header was “I Need Your Help”. 

Not only did Zimmy help me through that bleak phase of my life, she has, over the years, equipped me with tools that have allowed me to survive and navigate another decade in a city that drains my life force, being away from my family and friends, relationship ups and downs, career dilemmas, sometimes crippling social anxiety, and the devastating grief of losing my beloved Mum.  She taught me resilience, and she taught me how to have faith (a word I’d previously considered a profanity).   

I immediately fell in love with Zimmy as a therapist, and later, when it dawned on us both that we were spending the first 45 minutes of our sessions just chatting, I fell in love with her as a friend.  David calls her my guru because she helped transform me from someone who saw the world as an adversary, to be fought and challenged, into the woman I am now.  I am (mostly) at peace, I know who I am, I love myself, I am grounded, I am happy and I am open to receiving all of life’s possibilities.  I no longer feel alone, and I am no longer afraid.  Zimmy saved my life and I know it sounds like a cliché, but I am truly blessed to have met her and I am eternally grateful that she is my friend. 

Zimmy and me

It’s my great honour to introduce you all to Zimmy. 

Thank you so much Zimmy, for taking the time to (virtually) sit down with me and have a chat.  I appreciate it and I’m absolutely certain that my readers will enjoy it too. So, I started this post with an excerpt from an anthology you contributed to called “How The Phoenix Rose” in which you talk about your experience of severe physical and mental debilitation after suddenly developing a brain lesion in 2004.  Can you tell us about it?
I’d been working at JWT, one of the top global advertising agencies, in Dubai.  I’d been there for two years and was doing very well when I was suddenly hit with paralysis, and diagnosed with a brain lesion.  My mind has always been my savior and north star.  But the medications they gave me made me so weak, mentally, that I was not able to access my north star, my inner guidance, my mind’s ability to analyse and find solutions for me to heal myself; and that was the scariest part of the whole experience for me. More than the physical paralysis, it was the mental shutdown that made me feel alone and weak and hopeless. My superpower was taken away by the medications, and that’s why I stopped taking them, to see if I could still access my inner guidance. When that connection came back, I was able to heal myself through love and gratitude affirmations.

That sounds terrifying. Do you remember that time clearly, or has it faded with time?
Not as clearly as you would expect, because I live mainly in the present.  I remember things as a story, with minimal emotions.  I think I dissociate very reflexively from painful things, as a deep rooted trauma response – my analytical mind switches on to keep me safe and to protect me from feeling too deeply, and to just focus on what needs to be done to fix it, solve it or get out of it. I do remember the immense despair and fear that I went through, and also the great love and faith and peace that I felt for myself while saying the affirmations that healed me.  I really did feel like I went from wanting to kill myself, to everything will be alright, in a matter of only weeks.

Every hero has an origin story, and I wonder if that episode in your life is yours. 
The lesion did help me to honour my inner guidance more, and I will always feel fortunate about that.  But Chryss, I don’t see the lesion as my origin story, or even the catalyst.  It feels more like a very important fork in the road, but no, not the origin.

Are you happy to share your origin story with us?
I lost my mother suddenly and traumatically when I was only one and a half years old.  She had run away from her family to be with my dad while he was married to someone else. My parents married in secret, and for three years she lived as his second wife, whom no-one knew about; until his first wife found out.  Her brother murdered my mother to avenge his sister’s betrayal.  

Five month old Zimmy, with her mum and dad.

It was only then that my dad’s family learned about the whole situation, and of course they were in no position to care for me because the first wife had their loyalty.  My dad was also unable to care for me, and my mum’s family felt that she got what she deserved for disgracing them.  They wanted nothing to do with me as I was a reminder of their shame and loss.

Zimmy at six months.

Since the options were limited and my dad was concerned for my safety, he had to make quick decisions, and I was passed onto a childless couple who were our neighbours and family friends.  I was already quite comfortable around them and moved with them to Saudi Arabia soon after. Within a year my dad divorced his first wife, remarried, found a job in Saudi Arabia and moved there too. 

Zimmy at the age of four, with her biological paternal grandparents.

Between the ages of three and 15, I’d be with my foster parents during the week and spend the weekends with my dad and his new wife. I grew up knowing that my mum had died and that I now had two sets of parents. Both sets had their own baggage and issues and insecurities and wounds. I’m sure they all did their best to raise me as a team, but most of the time I felt alone, scared and unwanted, like a burden. I remember always being worried about something bad happening and feeling like I couldn’t trust or control life. I always needed to be on the alert and ready to fight. I never truly felt safe, or able to trust anyone, or have an irrefutable sense of belonging. So I became my own little unit – me, myself and I.  I always had the ability to talk to myself, to be there for myself and help guide myself through abusive experiences (physical, mental and emotional) in both homes, as well as feeling different at school.  

I found ways to work with my “defects” rather than allow them to defeat me. I used to analyse the other kids and try to figure out how to achieve the “desired result”, but in my own way. I created my own strategies on how to fit in and study better and focus better.  Things like doodling rather than taking notes in class, having music play while I did my homework and sleeping with books under my pillow. I always managed to get through with mostly As and Bs. School was very important to me as it felt like the only safe space in my life, and I wanted to do well and keep having that as my refuge.

By the time I became a teenager, with all the hormonal changes and bigger emotions, I was feeling very overwhelmed and suicidal. Even then it was my mind, my inner voice, my higher self that was my strength and got me through each day. I would have a pep talk with myself every morning: “Let’s do our best today, and if it’s not enough and things get too heavy, we can go to the top of that 15 storey building and just jump off. Don’t worry, we’ve got this, one way or the other. Just focus on one thing at a time and the day will pass”.  It was always “we” because that created a sense of belonging and connection, like someone had my back.  It is still “we” today.

I came to Dubai in 1997 to complete my bachelor’s degree in Business Management, with the intention of returning to Saudi Arabia to enroll in a Master’s program, and to wed in an arranged marriage.  And I was happy with that.  I was just so thrilled to have the opportunity to escape an oppressive family situation, to be independent, and get a higher education and live in a more open environment for a while.  During my studies, I was offered an internship at JWT, and after I graduated they offered me a job.  So I just stayed in Dubai. 

Well, I, for one, am very happy that you decided to stay. And thankfully (and miraculously) you fully healed from the brain lesion.  How did that whole experience lead to your evolution from high-flying advertising executive to life-saving healer and therapist?
I was so consumed with the miraculous outcome that I moved very quickly into delving into how the mind and body work together, how to be more than we’re taught we are, and how to access the superpowers that we all have. It was a rebirth for me, and a huge push towards my calling.  

I became keenly inter­ested in everything to do with “mind over matter”, “the power of thoughts” and “the attitude of gratitude”. Concepts that I had no prior awareness of, but that very naturally flowed through me and helped me to get my life back to its full glory. I made it my priority to study all that I could about these transformative powers that we all carry within us, and yet look for outside of ourselves.  It was this quest that trans­formed me from a hardcore, corporate intellectually-driven executive into a full-time therapist and healer. And it’s that exceptional and life-changing learning that I share with my clients in my sessions and workshops, reminding them to acknowledge all that they have to be thankful for, rather than focussing on the things that are missing.

There’s absolutely no question that you are special, that you do possess a superpower.  I attest to that and I happily recommend you to anyone that even drops a hint that they might benefit from your very special skillset. You have helped a lot of people. Do you think you were born with your superpower, or do you think that all the hardships you endured in your life helped to shape you that way? 
I think we are all born with these superpowers, and that is the real hallmark of being at the top of the food chain. We are the only beings that have the gifts of thought and analysis, and with that comes the ability to choose differently and to create different outcomes, to be better, to evolve. That is the superpower we all have. I don’t feel special in this respect, just really proud of myself for recognising the choices, and for choosing to be a better version of myself daily.

Life is bigger than us, and gives us both good experiences and challenging ones so that we can choose which ones we want to grow from. Some of us respond more to the painful push, and some of us thrive more when things are good.  So yes, my superpowers came to light due to adversity.  I wish I’d realised that I could have accessed them without the struggle!  But I think that learning so much about self-love, and finding these navigation methods, perhaps makes me a better therapist, and has helped me to create resources like The Happiness Project.  I’d sure like to think so. 

The other day when you were at our place for dinner you said something along the lines of, “I’m becoming mortal”.  What did you mean by that? 
I think that’s about progressively becoming a more feeling person than the mostly analytical one I used to be. I guess that comes with softening my armour and letting down my guard and starting to trust life and people, and allowing myself to connect, belong, love and live more fully. So yes when I allow myself to feel more, I do feel more human.  Vulnerable, but also more intuitive and alive. And I’m OK with that, I’m actually happy with that.  But sometimes I do become nostalgic about how in control I used to be.

Do you mind please listing the modalities you specialise in, for our readers, and what each one entails?  How can people benefit from them??  
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) go hand in hand as they are both related to learning how to direct our mind more consciously, rather than being directed by it and then feeling not in control of our thoughts and behaviours. So these are practical tips and techniques on how to reply to our negative, self-limiting thoughts, beliefs and programs by firstly becoming aware of them, secondly not fighting them but kindly and patiently shifting them to what would serve us better, and thirdly being consistent with the practice. This leads to a gradual but sustainable improvement in our mental, emotional and physical state of being, and gives us more energy and ability to be better versions of ourselves and to create a better life experience for ourselves. It also helps us to be more accepting and empathetic towards others.

Clinical hypnotherapy is used when there are deep subconscious wounds, fears, traumas or addictions that are creating pain in our lives. Sometimes we know what they are but we feel powerless to change or heal them; and sometimes we don’t even really know the root cause, but we know that no matter what we do cognitively, it just doesn’t seem to help for too long. So with this modality we connect with the subconscious mind, which has all the answers and solutions, and we heal the root causes from the past, so that they become disarmed and unable to create the pain in the present.  This is such a magical process and I am still in awe of how the mind takes us directly to the source, even when the client or myself have no idea what it is.  The healing that happens is so profound and long lasting, it still blows my mind. While hypnosis is still widely seen as just something to help with addictions and phobias, it really is much more than that and helps with healing traumas, PTSD, relationship issues, mental, emotional and physical illnesses too.

For energy healing I use a combination of the basics of reiki and pranic healing, plus my own intuitive interpretation. Energy healing modalities are based on the premise that we are all made up of energy and that everything that has form has an energy field.  How is my methodology unique?  I am able to get a sense of, and verbalise, the emotions that are creating the blocks in a client’s energy flow, and with their permission we work on allowing them to be released. This helps people to become more empowered and aware, and to be able to choose different thoughts and create lighter emotions so they can keep their energy system flowing better.

Akashic records reading helps us to connect to the client’s Super consciousness, the infinite essence.  Not just the conscious thinking mind or subconscious feeling mind that are limited to our bodily experience of life, but something bigger, wiser, made of love and connected to all that is. Through this modality, we access a “soup” of information that transcends time and space, and is made of our higher self (the part that knows our purpose in this life, and is a distillation of all the learnings from previous existences), collective consciousness, ancestral consciousness and so much more. The benefit is access to incredible love, wisdom, guidance and connection to something much larger and more powerful and comforting than we have ever known.  People also receive answers, solutions and healings during this process, giving permission to the therapist to access these through the client’s energy field, and to verbalise things that they may have been receiving through dreams, signs, gut feelings etc. but have not had the chance to really listen to, or interpret fully.

This is the newest modality in my portfolio, and the one that has truly challenged me to accept that I really am quite intuitive, and that I should trust and own this superpower rather than doubt or feel embarrassed by it. Since I come from such an analytical background, it’s been the most fascinating journey for me, first with energy healing and now with this. I know I heavily rely on my intuition, even when working with clinical hypnotherapy, but this really throws you in the deep end as there is almost no science to give you a sense of security. I used to be very hesitant, and actually avoided delving into it until the “call” became really strong and I decided to do a course, just to quell my curiosity.

During the course, my readings were really accurate and intuitive, and the teacher and students all wanted to work with me! So it’s almost like I had no choice but to embrace this facet of myself.  I slowly started doing readings, for close friends at first, and only after I felt more comfortable with this strange free-falling did I start offering it to clients.  It is a beautiful experience, not just for clients, but for me too, and I have never had a session in which I wasn’t touched so deeply that it led me to tears. The unconditional love, acceptance, encouragement and wisdom that comes through is really something special, and each client leaves feeling uplifted, happy, peaceful and more whole.  

Over the years, you and I have tried most of these therapies, plus some other, more experimental stuff.  Our hypnotherapy sessions helped me tremendously when we first started seeing each other and I was at a very low point, holding onto lots of shit.  I really enjoyed the Akashic reading you did for me in 2018, as it connected me to my yiayia, who died a year later at the age of 103.  My least favourite therapy was the past life regression (sorry!).  I didn’t really feel like I got much out of it (though it did inspire a short story, so perhaps that’s not quite accurate). 
The past life regression was your fifth session, and the objective was for you to have more discipline with your writing, and to enjoy it more. So we accessed a past life in which you had done that, to remind your cells, your consciousness, of how it feels to be that way again. Maybe it’s just me, but I do feel the past life session was more impactful than you may have realised.  I believe that it served the purpose of getting you to be more regular and disciplined with your ejos, and over the past few years I feel your writing has become deeper, and more open and honest.

Thank you so much!  You’ve definitely helped me become a better writer, and a better person.  After all these years, it’s still a wondrous experience for me to come to you feeling stale or blocked or stuck in some way, and walk away feeling like I’ve been fixed.  And for that reason, my absolute favourite therapy of all is your energy cleanse. 
Energy cleanses work really well with you as you are truly open and trusting with me and that’s all it takes to set things right, or to position them better, to create an easier flow. And thankfully you are aware of, and good at, self-regulating and you use your mind well, so we haven’t really needed extensive hypnotherapy etc. Would you please tell me what you like about it, and how it helps you and how you think it works?  I’m curious to hear your take on it.

To be honest, it all feels a little bit like magic.  And because we have worked together for so long I definitely feel that I can completely trust you, and trust the process, and let go and have faith that you’ll guide me in the direction I need to go.  Hypnotherapy is similar, but it feels like I need to do a little more delving into my own consciousness, and sometimes that feels clunky to me, like too much hard work (LOL, I’m so lazy).  When we do an energy cleanse, I just open the door to my sub-conscious and let you in, and let you do all the work.  I always leave your house walking on air, buoyant and buzzing but very clear-minded, and very happy. I want to thank you so much for all that you’ve done for me, over the years. I’m so grateful that the journey you took to overcome all the trauma and pain in your life led you to helping others overcome theirs. I’m so grateful that it led us to each other.
That really has been my driving force towards actively participating in life. Being there for others, and allowing them to use some of my learnings to heal themselves. So what you say makes me feel like I have been of service, and of love, and that you have helped me to fulfill my purpose. I really do love my work

If you feel that a session with Zimmy might help you in some way, you can get in touch with her at zimmy@epiphany-zk.com, or just let me know and I’ll set it up for you. She does in-person sessions in Dubai, as well as video sessions for clients all over the world.

Ejo #138 – My Green Babies (or Plants Are People Too): Part 2

A few of you have asked me for my top tips for keeping plants healthy.  In my previous post, I mentioned being careful about over-watering (just don’t do it!), re-potting and moving plants around to give them a new lease on life.  The other thing I regularly do for all my plants (except for Eugene, coz fuck that guy) is to wipe their leaves clean from time to time.  Dust (or in our case, sand) accumulating on leaves actually prevents plants from being able to photosynthesise, which can then lead to all sorts of problems.  I like to get some kitchen towel and sit down next to my babies and chat to them as I gently wipe their beautiful leaves clean.  Sure, it can be a little time consuming, but it’s also a special time, a time to bond and to just be with each other. 

Speaking of plant love, shamed by the revelation of my blatant disregard for one of my own plant babies, I’ve spent the last month trying to get to know Sally. Just giving her a bit of my attention. I haven’t been the best mother to her, in the past. But I want to change. I’ve tried to change. It’s taken her a little while, but I think she’s starting to open up to me. She’s starting to come around.

Be still my beating heart. Sally’s new baby shoot.


CHESTER

Macramé is so daggy, but I actually really love it.

Chester is a Monstera adansonii, commonly known as a monkey mask Monstera.  I bought him in a supermarket, where, surprisingly, most of our healthiest plants were purchased.  Nearly all the plants that have perished under my guardianship were bought in nurseries, so I don’t really bother shopping at garden centres anymore.  Chester and I went through a bit of a difficult patch for a few months because, for some inexplicable reason, I kept calling him Charlie.  It didn’t quite feel right, but he didn’t correct me either, so I’d say we’re both a little bit to blame for that nonsense.  Yes, it was awkward for a while, but we’re back on speaking terms now. 


PETER

The strong, silent type.

Peter is a Ficus elastica, also known as a rubber plant.  These guys have always appealed to me because I remember having one in our flat when I was a small child.  Peter isn’t a fancy kind of plant, and he’s always been an easy baby.  I think he’s pretty content to stay in the background and let the other kids steal all the limelight.  However, he is currently growing some beautiful new dark green, shiny leaves, which simply delight me (so maybe he is a little bit of a showpony after all).  When his new leaves pop out of their sheaths and unfurl into existence, I like to give them a little kiss to welcome them into the world (yes, I am affectionate with my children; probably the same way that you are with yours, so… whatevs). 

The magic of nature.


BILL
Bill is a trendy Ficus lyrata, more commonly known as a fiddle leaf fig.  I swear to god, you can’t even open a design magazine these days without seeing one of these hipsters sprucing up an interior.  In fact, when my sisters and I were styling our family home to put on the market a couple of years ago, we went out and bought one of these guys to zhuzh up the house. 

Sexy beast.

I very distinctly remember the day that Bill was delivered to our apartment.  David and I had gone out with a friend that afternoon and… hmm, let’s just say we’d had a little bit to drink.  When Bill arrived, I popped him onto the dining room table to admire him, and as soon as I turned my back, perhaps threatened by all the attention I was lavishing onto the newcomer, David decided to establish dominance by taking a large bite out of one of Bill’s beautiful, crinkly leaves.  I was not impressed, and promptly slapped a restraining order on David, which stands to this day!  He has visitation rights, but only when I’m at home to supervise.  And Bill still bears the scar of the bite mark on his lower leaf.  Whenever he gets self conscious about it, I like to show him my own scars and tell him that it gives him character. Parenting 101.


IVY
Ivy is a golden pothos, just like my work-kid LuLu, who you met last time.  For a while she was marooned in a land-bound pot, while I conducted high level negotiation talks with David to please, please, please let me hang some macramé pots from the ceiling.  Eventually he relented and drilled some hooks into our ceiling from which to hang the kinds of plants that like to hang around.  Ivy absolutely fucking loves hanging around.  She has grown so unbelievably fast since we put her up there, and some of her tendrils are now almost three metres long.  I have grand plans to trail her branches all around the living room, which is actually possible because they can grow up to 12 metres long.  Jungle living, bitches!!! 

She really loves just hanging around.


LOU
Lou is an Asplenium nidus, also known as a bird’s nest fern because they grow out of a central, fuzzy rosette that looks like … you guessed it, a bird’s nest.  Lou prefers to be referred to by the pronouns they/them, and we fully support that.  They were a land-based plant for a little while, but after I convinced David to screw the holes in the ceiling, we hung them up and they’ve burgeoned ever since.  In this photo you can see a brand new baby frond unfurling.  Tell me it’s not breathtaking!!!

My baby’s having a baby!!


TOMMY’S

What? Are? You?

The Tommy’s are (ostensibly) tomato plants.  These weirdos are actually freaks of nature.  I planted some of my Mum’s heirloom tomato plant seeds in October of last year, and a few of them sprouted leaves.  But I must have fucked up the timing, because these guys haven’t grown at all since then.  But they’re not dead, either.  The three that have survived have literally been this size for the last nine months. It’s bizarre.  It’s like they’re in some kind of stasis, and I’m here for it. I’m trying to keep them alive long enough for them to make it through summer, and maybe then they’ll start growing again?  Who the fuck knows.  I’m just winging it here, people, flying by the seat of my pants.  This is completely new territory for me.  Also: maybe science?? 


AZIZ
Aziz is a Zamioculcas zamiifolia, also known as a ZZ plant.  These guys are super duper low maintenance, which is why you’ll frequently see them growing quite happily under the bright, artificial light of malls and office buildings.  And that’s exactly what I love about Aziz – he is quite comfy sitting in the darker areas of the house, where a lot of other plants would suffer from the lack of light.  I’d been on the lookout for a ZZ for a really long time, and when I saw this charmer in IKEA one afternoon I literally jumped for joy.  He’s gorgeous, isn’t he?  I think the other plants get jealous of him sometimes because he sits in a spot I walk past frequently, so I’m always giving him a high five or whispering, “Yo Aziz, whaddup!”   The other plants need to get over it. 

Yo, Aziz!!


SHANE

Shane’s the chickadee on the far right. This photo was taken nearly 10 years ago. They’re in the bathtub because David and I were going on holiday. We aren’t the best parents in the world, but I’ve never pretended otherwise.

Shane is a Peperomia obtusifolia, also known as a baby rubber plant.  She’s one of the OG flora we bought when we first moved to Dubai.  She’s been with us a long time, and I don’t think any of the other plants will be surprised to hear me say that she’s my favourite.  We’ve been through a lot together; a lot of years, man.  She’s moved house with us, twice.  And, I’m not embarrassed to say that she spent a short stint in a foster home when David and I went to Australia for a few weeks in 2016.  Our friends Nat and Andy did a wonderful job of looking after her because when she came back home she started growing like CRAZY!!!  Perhaps the change of scenery triggered a growth spurt?  Who knows.  What I do know is that she started overflowing her pot with this beautiful, lush, dark green leafery, cascading down the side, a luxuriant waterfall of frondescence. 

This was Shane about a year ago, having a shower. Rapunzel of the plant world.

Last year I gave  her a haircut.  I think it makes her look younger and more youthful, and it’s definitely easier for her to manage.  And despite being the grande dame of the bunch, she’s still growing new baby leaves, like a plant half her age.  Shane is a great example of a babe that doesn’t need too much attention to thrive.  In the 12 years we’ve had her, I’ve never repotted her.  And I only water her once a month.  I hope that what I’m doing keeps working and that she sticks around for a long time because I just love looking at her, chatting to her, touching her and waking up every morning to see her at the foot of my bed.  I’m used to having her around, and I love her. 

This is Shane today. No, she hasn’t had Botox (but thanks for asking).


VERA
Vera is an Aloe vera, also known as aloe vera.  I knicked a little cutting from the walking track behind our apartment a couple of years ago and she grows like she’s on steroids.  We have to keep cutting her back as she frequently outgrows her pot.  I like having her around because her gel reportedly has amazing healing properties, not least of which as a soothing gel to apply to sunburnt skin.  I can actually vouch for this one, as I got quite a nasty burn last year and the only thing that made me feel better was fresh aloe vera gel. 

Vera’s a bit of a wild child.


RICHARD
Richard is an Ixora coccinea, also known as a jungle geranium.  We bought him when we first moved into this apartment, just over five years ago.  He could probably do with a little more care, but guess what?  I’m the inside plant parent.  Outside is David’s domain.  I’m not laying any blame here.  Dubai’s “outside” is horrendously hot and inhospitable for most of the year, and any plant that can survive for five years on our balcony is a fucking superhero in my eyes.  In fact, David has done a remarkable job of keeping all the outdoor plants alive.  While Richard definitely looks less vital than when we first got him, he still flowers quite abundantly during the winter months which is just glorious to behold, and which must mean that even though he’s a little bit abused, he probably likes it? 

A friend was over the other day and looked out the window and asked, “Is that a bonsai?”. No, I said, that’s just Richard.


LOLI, ELLIE & BARB

Barb and Ellie. Never turn your back on these bitches – they will shiv you.

These assholes are Yucca gloriosas, also known as Spanish daggers.  As you can see we treat them like absolute shit, and they repay us by brutally stabbing us every opportunity they get.  We get along just fine.  As long as David keeps trimming and watering them (coz I won’t go anywhere near the bastards unless I absolutely have to), and as long as they don’t perforate our eardrums or skewer our eyeballs (which are apparently amongst the more common injuries inflicted by these shitheads) then they can stay.   

Meet Loli (it’s short for Lolita). We keep her on a separate balcony for our own protection.

Ejo #137 – My Green Babies (or Plants Are People Too): Part 1

I’m fairly confident that in my last ejo I made it crystal clear that I am not the motherly type. But that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of being motherly. Or loving. Or that I can’t care for, or nurture, another living thing. I am absolutely obsessed with dogs, and utterly devastated that I can’t have one of my own. I accost the dog owners of our local community on the daily, shouting, “PUPPY!” at every adorable canine I see. But sadly, the wanderlusting lifestyle that David and I have chosen precludes us from owning a pet. But… it doesn’t stop us from owning plants.

As most of you know, my mother had a spectacularly green thumb. Her garden was legendary. I’m not sure I’ve inherited her horticultural abilities, but I don’t think it would be too bold to say that I am pretty good at keeping houseplants alive. That hasn’t always been the case, and many (too many) blameless green darlings have met their untimely demise whilst under my care. I have felt each one, as a dagger in my heart. I love my plants, as I would love my own children (and I will wrestle to the ground anyone who dares to challenge that premise). My plants are my babies, and no, that’s not weird. You’re weird.

My Mum’s glorious green wonderland.

Over the years I have learned to care for a variety of beautiful plants, through the aforementioned trial and error. I can now confidently and intuitively assess what each of my kiddies requires to thrive (or at least not die). The biggest secret I’ve learned? A little bit of tough love won’t kill ‘em. Overwatering is a far bigger assault than letting them dry out a bit. However, it’s not simply a case of popping them in a corner and watering them once in a while (though some plants are easier to look after than others – I’m looking at you Adele!!!). The needs of plants differ from one to the other, and from one day to the next. Houseplants may seem inert, but they are dynamic, living things. They get hungry, thirsty, hot, cold and sick. They can also be happy. I must say that I find it very fulfilling, having something to look after. I enjoy being responsible for these beautiful living organisms. And in turn they repay me with purified air, fresh oxygen and exquisite beauty. Who is looking after whom? Naturally they all have names, but I do want to point out that I don’t ever name them myself. They tell me what their own names are, when they’re ready. Sometimes that’s a couple of days after we adopt them, other times they whisper it to me from the supermarket shelf they’re sitting on. They are all unique and wonderful and I simply adore them. And so, just like a proud mummy showing off her precociously talented youngsters, I would like to introduce you to my green kiddies.


ADAN & LULU

Adan means Garden of Eden in Arabic.

Adan is an Aglaonema silver queen, also known as a Chinese evergreen. And LuLu is an Epipremnum aureum, also known as devil’s ivy. She’s also sometimes called golden pothos and she is ridiculously easy to care for and grow. Adan and LuLu are my “other” plant family. Some people have work husbands or work wives. I have work children. And yes, they are mine. Whenever I would visit the office levels of our building, I’d see all these amazing large potted plants around the place and that made me jealous for us tower folk, bereft of any greenery. So I asked facilities to please bring up one or two big plants for the tower, and what we got was Adan. Better than nothing. I’ve taped a little sign on him asking the other controllers to not water him, so he’s doing really well. He gets a lot of indirect sunlight and is rather delighted to be up in the tower rather than being stuck on a desk in some stuffy office.

It’s lovely to have a pop of colour in the dreary tower.

LuLu is actually a cutting of golden pothos that I rescued from someone’s workstation. She’s unusual in that she can grow in water and doesn’t need soil to survive. Clever girl, LuLu.


ADELE
Adele was a Spathiphyllum, commonly known as a peace lily. More like a grief lily, if you ask me. Adele has been my third attempt to care for a peace lily and she will definitely be the last. No matter what I do, I just cannot keep these little bitches alive. I don’t even think they’re that hard to look after. The folks at gardeningknowhow.com reckon that, “When it comes to indoor plants, peace lily plants are some of the easiest to care for.” What absolute bullshit. Just ask Adele. And Lillian. And Sylvia. I’m pretty sure they would disagree. Look, in the interests of full disclosure I will admit that of the three, Lillian’s death was probably my fault. Mea culpa. She was whining and wilting, so I popped her outside in the sunshine for a couple of hours in the hope of reviving her. How was I supposed to know that direct sunlight would kill her? Involuntary manslaughter, at worst.

I spit on your grave, Adele.

But Adele was supposed to be different. She was my chance at redemption. I kept her away from direct sunlight. I watered her with filtered water, I misted her. I caressed her. I spoilt her rotten. To no avail. She finally carked it a couple of weeks ago after a quite obnoxious, and melodramatically protracted, deathbed scene. That’s it for me, no more. Peace (lilies) out.


LUCY

A fifteenth chance at life.

Lucy is a Dracaena marginata, commonly known as a Madagascar dragon tree. I can’t even remember where I got Lucy, we’ve had her for so long. She’s grown from a wee baby dragon lass of about 20cm tall to the gorgeous Amazonian beauty you see today. But it hasn’t been an easy road with her. She really put us through the wringer, and there was a time that I wasn’t even sure she was going to make it. You wouldn’t know it looking at her lush foliage now, but for a few years she was simply unable to shake a mealybug (or scale) infestation – pests that cause plants to stop growing and start dropping their leaves, eventually leading to their death. I did everything I could. I would pick the little fuckers off individually, by hand. I sprayed her with a special soapy vodka solution. I put her outside. I moved her around the house. I would just sit with her. Nothing seemed to work. She would get better for a while and then the bugs would come back. At my lowest point, in desperation, I told David that if she didn’t get better I would just leave her outside and let someone else take her. Someone who might be able to look after her better. I’m not proud of that moment. But it happened, and I think it’s important that we talk about it. I’m so grateful that (with a lot of love and support) she managed to kick that bug habit to the kerb. After years of being feeble and sickly, she is now absolutely flourishing, strong and beautiful and I absolutely adore her, all the more for what she put us through. Her illness could have torn us apart, but instead it brought us closer together. And the biggest lesson she taught me: never give up.


DORIS
Doris is a Dracaena fragrans, commonly known as a corn plant. Doris is another old girl that once nearly died (though she was never as ill as Lucy). She just suffered from a general malade, and it took me a long time to figure out why. It was Doris who taught me about the dangers of overwatering. You feel that giving them more water is an act of love, but it’s actually a death sentence. Their roots start to rot and they slowly lose the will to live. I look at Doris now and marvel at the difference a cup of water a month makes.

The dry tips of Doris’ leaves mean that I’m still overwatering her. 😦


EUGENE
Eugene started off as a Gymnocalycium mihanovichii, which Google tells me is also sometimes called a ruby ball cactus. That’s because they’re supposed to look like this:

This is what Eugene is supposed to look like.

And Eugene did indeed start off looking like that. I have no idea what happened to him; perhaps he was bitten by a radioactive mealybug. But very shortly after he moved in, his ruby ball started to rot and wither away. Even though he was just a two buck ornamental toy cactus, I felt kind of ripped off. To be honest, I expected the rest of him to follow the ruby ball into an early grave, but shortly afterwards Eugene started growing in his own unique way. He grew so much that he started falling over so I decided to do some horticultural sculpting, practicing shibari, the ancient Japanese art of knot-tying on him. Every few months a cactus segment will grow out the side, so I lovingly and gently, but firmly, wrap the long, woody tendrils around the other ones, tying them all together. I have no idea how long we can keep this up, but I can guarantee that it won’t be me who says the safe word first.

This is what Eugene actually looks like.


SYBIL
Sybil is an Echeveria agavoides, also sometimes known as a wax agave. Sybil started off as one of those cute miniature succulent pots but she very quickly outgrew her home because she kept multiplying. This made her depressed and anxious, and she started dropping leaves so I did what every good mum would do and moved her into a nice big bowl where she has plenty of room to grow her own little babies (very adorably known as pups). You can call me grandmamma, I don’t mind!!

Sybil started off as one, then became two, and now she’s three.


STEWIE
Stewie is an Alocasia mortfontanensis, also known as elephant’s ears. He was another supermarket purchase and actually came in the big while bowl that Sybil is now residing in. The problem with the bowl for Stewie is that he likes a lot of drainage and the bowl doesn’t have any holes, so his roots became too wet and he started drooping and looking a bit wistful. I knew that I had to take immediate action, so I repotted him and moved him to a different spot (these two things really are the best first aid a plant can get). He has rewarded me with three gorgeous new leaves, and I reward him with cuddles and my unconditional love.

You can see why they call them elephant’s ears.


THE GANG

They’re called adult collectibles. I will not be answering any further questions.

Meet the gang. Sarah is a Dracaena trifasciata, also known as a mother-in-law’s tongue, or snake plant. She is a super slow grower which is probably for the best because apparently she has the potential to grow up to eight feet tall. Woah there Sarah, slow your roll girl!

Rico is a Goeppertia makoyana, also known as a peacock plant. What I love about Rico is that every night he becomes quite erect!!! I mean, literally. His leaves all stand to attention like little soldiers. It’s quite amazing to see. Also, when I took his picture right now to identify him correctly, the plant-Shazam app, Picture This, told me that I am a horrible mother and that plant services have been alerted. God, this parenthood jam just never lets up, does it.

I promise I’ll water him less from now on.

Fran is a Nephrolepis exaltata, also known as a Boston fern. I don’t do so well with ferns, and I’ve definitely killed more than my fair share. But I somehow managed to keep Fran from dying, pulling her back from the light at the eleventh hour. It really is a miracle that she’s still alive, to be honest. She has about twenty fronds right now, but after I conducted life-saving emergency surgery on her (with a Stanley knife, no less) she was left with just one sad, droopy little frond. As you can see she is slowly growing back. I mist her once in a while, and she seems to like that so I’ll keep doing it.

Sally is a Schefflera arboricola, also known as a dwarf umbrella tree. Sally is not my favourite plant in the world, and I have a feeling she knows it. She’s just so goddamn boring. Which is the exact reason I’m so glad I never had kids. What if I’d had a boring one!!! A tiresome child that I just couldn’t be arsed with. Imagine wishing (as I do with Sally) that I’d never brought the little bugger into the world/my home to start with. And now I feel guilty so I have to lavish her with some attention to make myself feel better. She’s still fucking boring though.

Fakey is the “plant” next to Sally on the bottom row (see what I did there). I own a couple of fake plants because I really love having greenery in the bathrooms and unfortunately our bathrooms are completely devoid of any natural light, which plants obviously need to live. Here are the other ones. They don’t have names, obvs, coz they’re not real.

I don’t love having fakeys but my brain still gets off on the green factor, and as far as fakeys go, these ones aren’t too bad.

To be continued…..