An Intro to Transplant Shock Theory

I sunk down in the pristine white couch in the lobby of the Hotel Monaco. Bawling. My cousin sat and waited for me to surface from my emotional whirlpool. When he spoke finally, it was about plants. Not surprising as he’s a brilliant horticulturist (read: plant nerd).

“Anytime you move a plant from one pot to another it goes through what we call transplant shock. Each plant is different. Some will go along just fine for six weeks and then keel over. Some will limp along for a few weeks, gain footing, and thrive in its new home. Either way, a good gardener knows immediately after transplant, you have to pay extra attention to the plant. A little more sun. A little more water.

“You just moved here, Vanessa. You left a place you’d put down serious roots and threw yourself back into a place that has a lot of emotional baggage. You have roommates again. You’re a student again. You’re working remotely, a whole time zone behind where you were used to. That’s a lot of change all at once. I’m not surprised you’re experiencing transplant shock.”

I laugh-cried, but it made sense. In the intervening years, I’ve used this analogy with more people than I care to count. And he’s reminded me of its truthfulness time and time again. Especially in 2017. This year seems to have been the most turbulent. I made a drastic career change, moved further North, slept on nine different beds across four states and two countries within a two-month period, adjusted my academic timeline, cried buckets of tears, prepared for two funerals and thankfully only had to execute on one of them. Even now, I feel like I’m finally ready to send out runners, I’m uprooting myself for three weeks’ travel in New Zealand.

That being said, there’s been a single strand of clarity running through the whole ordeal. Each time I feel the proverbial spinning top wobble, I come back to center: a little more water, a little more sun, you’ll be just fine.

My friend Holland interviewed me about a month ago for a series of posts on her blog Her Love Lessons, our topic being self-care through ritual. When she asked me what my current rituals were, and I didn’t have a solid answer. Truth is, my rituals were at their last Winter, when I lived at 7,500 ft during one of the snowiest winters Utah has seen in a long time. No TV, spotty internet, and mostly snowed in… I had the time and space to hone my meditation, physical and mental exercises, and tap into an ideal set of rituals. April 31st, that all got thrown into flux and I’m sitting here half-way through December still unsure of where I stand.

So, what’s that clarity coming from, Vanessa? It’s from the awareness of what can be achieved. Because of my cloister in the mountains, I know I function more fully, healthily when I practice regular meditation, when I break a sweat daily, when I commune with deity, when I dig into a creative act, when I eat whole foods… the list goes on. I am in a new place -- transplanted in every sense of the word -- and until the soil is stable enough for me to lay down roots, I make sure to pay closer attention to my needs in this precise moment. Am I hungry? Am I tired? When is the last time I talked openly to God? Have I had any conversations that inspired me? Am I feeling supported at work? Have I learned something new?

I definitely support an overarching system in place to automate and ritualize your mornings and evenings to optimize your day. However, when consistency from day to day isn’t currently attainable, awareness of even the basics of Maslow’s pyramid can help stabilize you.

More on this later, but for now… a little more sun, a little more water. You’ll be just fine.

Vanessa OlerComment