On cultivating thriving

In The Highly Sensitive Person, Elaine Aron likens some people to dandelions: throw them in the grimiest of situations and they thrive. But others are like orchids: they require delicate care to blossom.

While I like to think I’m more adaptable than a persnickety orchid, I’m certainly no dandelion giddily blooming in the sidewalk cracks of Manhattan. I can survive in non-ideal situations, but it takes care and cultivation for me to thrive.

For a while I thought that being too stressed and busy was my problem. Then I took away the stress and busy-ness and found my leaves wilted, drooping. I was aghast: “Look at everything I’m doing for you! I thought you would thrive!” Upon a friend’s suggestion, I added a fertilizer: a daily short stint of strenuous exercise. And then—bam! Everything I was doing seemed to come together. I could feel I was on my way to bloom-town.

My formula for thriving seems to be a combination of exercise, mental space, nutrition, lack of chronic stress, interesting ideas, authentic connection with others, and progress on a goal tied to a larger sense of purpose.

Does this seem a bit high maintenance? A bit demanding? I totally agree! But if you have one plant and it’s an orchid, either you can put in the effort to get the blooms, or you can go without.