Earlier this year, for the first time in our lives, my husband and I decided to grow tomato plants from seed. We set up our small indoor green house in late February, and researched all the necessary materials to optimally launch our fledgling nursery. After planting the seeds, it was fun to check in on the plants as they sprang to life. Amid the myriad of negative physical and psychological demands relating to the SARS-CoV 2 pandemic, I found this daily check-in made me feel connected to something greater. We celebrated when they survived the moves to ever-larger pots, and redoubled our efforts when they looked like they where flagging. As the storms literally and figuratively raged outside, these frail seedlings brought a sense of calm and positivity that is difficult to explain.
When the time came to gradually accustom the plants to the outdoors, we did this with a sense of pride. Unfortunately, due to some much needed major yard work, a new fence, new cedar patio decking, and deck and stair upgrades, their priority in our domestic world changed. After several weeks outside in the shelter of our porch, they were moved inside. I too moved inside, when much of my work moved to the virtual world. I am becoming accustomed to delivering virtual care, as are my patients in receiving it...but it has not been a simple transition.
We have all been under similar pressures, so I will not reiterate the increased clinical demands and the time required to design and implement the necessary office, and hospital-based procedures required to manage the SARS-CoV2 pandemic. But, for many physicians, “self-care” time all but disappeared. Even before the pandemic, setting up healthy habits and routines depended on an already busy schedule at best of times.
As I felt my own energy flagging through this transition, I looked to my tomatoes to re-energize me as they had done so successfully earlier in the year. I was concerned by their forlorn appearance. Their leaves were curled over, shrivelled, and sad looking. Many previously strong branches had turned yellow, and it seemed they were not going to make it. We got to work, and researched the syndrome. Lack of daylight, inadequate water, unbalanced nutrients, and insufficient fresh air were all possibilities. Something needed to be done to help these tomatoes find the balance they craved.
Together, my husband and I built a plan. We moved the struggling tomatoes outside, despite the construction, so they had access to better, more consistent, light and sunshine. At the same time, I moved my at-home workstation to a brighter window, so I too could benefit from the warmth and heat of the sun. Many yellowed and suffering tomato limbs had to been trimmed back to make the plant look more presentable, and provide it with a chance to return to its best. With my mask on, I got a haircut. Tomato fertilizer every few days became a routine, to nourish the plants with the fuel they needed. I decreased my simple carbs, and increased my green vegetable intake. Adequate fresh air was of course outside for the plants to benefit from. If it were possible, I would have taken the plants on the walks outside that I deliberately added to my schedule, which cleared my head and provided a sense of peace. They might have enjoyed it.
There is no doubt that the last year has been one of the busiest of my career. The past number of months have been demanding and rewarding all at once. The pace of my work, particularly in light of the pandemic, had seen some of my regular habits fall somewhat by the wayside. It was, at times, overwhelming. Fortunately the humble tomatoes shared a few lessons with me. I am delighted to report that I am currently sitting in the sunshine surrounded by my lush green plants, feeling energized.
Upon reflection, I can conclude that we are all in this challenging time together. With conscious effort, adequate supports and self care practices, we too can thrive.