My mother once told me that in every successful relationship there is a gardener and a flower. The gardener tends to the flower and the flower blossoms as a result of the gardener’s loving care.
“Seems like a good deal for the flower,” I told my mom, “but what does the gardener get out of it?”
My mother, who was the personification of a flower, responded, “Oh, who cares. The lesson here is to find yourself a gardener, because you’re going to need one.”
In most of my past relationships, I’ve been forced into the role of gardener, mainly due to the fact that I’m attracted to flowers because they’re pretty! But, as my best friend observed, “You are the most reluctant and resentful gardener in history.”
And, it’s true. The flowers under my care wilted and cried out for water. Most were ultimately rescued from my weed patch by true gardeners and replanted in a nutrient-rich environment where they were finally allowed to thrive.
Luckily for me, six years ago I stumbled into a relationship with a master gardener. It was a happy mistake. She’s as pretty as a flower, which is what drew me to her, but she likes to dig her hands deep into my dirt.
OK, I think I’ve exhausted this metaphor. In plain speak, she does everything for me. She laughs at all my jokes, puts me to bed when I’ve had too much to drink, and tidies up the disasters I leave in my wake. Someone once asked her what term we use to describe our relationship—partners, girlfriends, spouses? Without hesitation, she said, “I’m her personal assistant.”
This arrangement has really worked out well for me! I’m the messy center of her universe. But my happy orbit was thrown off kilter this week when she announced that she was joining a band.
My girlfriend used to be a professional musician, something she gave up in her late 20’s for an MBA and financial stability. Recently, though, she met some middle-aged gals who have never given up on their musical dreams and they invited her to join their all-girl group.
At first I was supportive because as much as I love being waited on hand-and-foot, sometimes the 24-hour scrutiny gets to be a bit too much. Sometimes I like to quietly self-destruct and wallow in my own filth without someone trying to fix me.
But then, as it became clear that band practice would interfere with my daily comforts, I began to bristle. Suddenly, the balance had shifted and I was not only tending to my own daily needs but making sure she was able to balance this new hobby with work and life. What’s more, she was going to be on stage, in the spotlight. That’s a place where flowers belong, not gardeners.
“Where do I fit into all of this?” I asked nervously after she returned from her first rehearsal, happier than I had ever seen her.
It would have been perfectly reasonable for her to smack me in the head for my selfish reaction to her desire for creative fulfillment. But because she’s a master gardener, she instinctively knew how to right the situation.
“I’ve already told the band that you’ll be our Yoko,” she said soothingly.
“I get to disrupt practice? Make outrageous demands? Cause friction among bandmates? Insist that the band play one of my original atonal compositions, with me shrieking out the words?” I asked with excitement.
“Yep, you get to steal the spotlight,” she said.
I’ve already bought a severe, all-black outfit in preparation for the band’s first gig. I’ll sit at the bar, demanding free drinks and abject servitude. And when someone questions my attitude, I’ll say, imperiously, “I’m with the band.”