Keeping the garden tidy and enjoying its gifts has many parallels with how we approach life. By Family Care columnist and life coach Richard Blakeborough.
Last Sunday I had a day in the garden. I have a very large garden, and sometimes the thought of getting out and weeding frightens me, because there is so much to do!
A benefit of spending long hours in the garden is that I have time to think. And last Sunday I needed to think.
Seeking inspiration for an article, I had asked a group of my friends to send me their three major issues in life. After an hour in the garden I still had no inspiration; let's face it, gardening has nothing to do with life and inspiration. And then, as usually happens, the obvious hit me right between the eyes: gardening is exactly a metaphor for life!
When I walk into my garden and look at the enormity of its potential, my mind is flooded with comments. If my garden looked perfect it would be fantastic. People would comment on it. I would get more pleasure from it. My family could be in it and enjoy what it gives us.
But the work needed to make my garden perfect alarms me. How on earth can I do everything that needs to be done? I instantly feel overwhelmed.
When this happens I do nothing. My brain closes down to opportunity and ideas. I sit and look at my garden, shake my head, and say "it's just too big for me to deal with". I sit and look and realise that while I yearn for my garden to look perfect, the task is too huge. Isn't that exactly how many things can feel? We know deep down that our lives are full of potential; in fact the enormity of the potential is overwhelming.
So we look at our lives and shake our heads and say, "although I yearn for my life to be perfect, the task is too huge”.
Deal with the roots!
That’s why on Sunday I didn't go into the garden with the goal of weeding everything. I picked one corner and told myself I would make just that one area look great. Remember the saying "how you do anything is how you do everything"? I decided this is how I would approach all of my work in the garden.
The first challenge was weeding. Weeding is a lot like working on ourselves. As I slowly and meticulously pulled out all the little weeds I got the sense that this was a lot of work for little return. Then I reached a clump of really big weeds. It took me a short time to remove them, but the visual impact on the area I was working in was huge!
This is like the slow daily grind of working on oneself: clearing out little problems, then striking an area of big issues which, when sorted or removed, have a wonderful impact, and provide the motivation to keep moving forward.
I also realised when pulling weeds that if I left the roots in the ground, visually everything might look great for a few days, but the weed would grow back and need to be dealt with again. Now isn't that just like when we fudge over our issues? On the surface everything looks fine, but underneath the roots remain, and that issue will raise its head again soon.
After I had done the weeding I moved on to my vegetable patch. This year I have challenged myself to grow chilli peppers from seeds. As I was planting the seeds in the ground nted these seeds to be fully grown by next Sunday. No, I didn't have time for Mother Nature to spend months growing my plants. I had planted the seeds and I wanted instant gratification. This thought made me ponder about how often in my life I had planted seeds and never allowed them to come to fruition.
The reason? If the seeds didn't produce quickly enough, I would dig them up and start again with something else. Let's face it, who has heard of a farmer who plants potatoes on Friday then gets up on Monday all angry and digs up the entire field because the potatoes haven't grown yet! But often we do this with issues in our lives. Sometimes we plant seeds and dig them up too quickly because we haven't given Mother Nature, or our own brain, or those around us, the chance to nurture the seeds and allow them to grow. So we dig them all up and try something else.
It's a journey
After a few hours of weeding and planting I decided to have a break. I stood up, stretched, and sat on my verandah to view the garden. The square metre I had weeded looked very good, and this was something I could build on, a stepping stone to improve the rest of the garden and enjoy in the meantime. It also came to mind that tomorrow I can start again because, as in life, the work in the garden will never really stop.
Our gardens, and our lives, are a constant process of improving and enjoying our milestones. It doesn't stop: it's a journey, not a destination. Sometimes, when I really don't want to do any work in the garden, I walk past the weeds and say, "I know you're there, but you'll still be there tomorrow, and tomorrow I will get you". So I don't stress, but I recognise the work that is needed, because that's a part of the journey too.
Plant now, harvest later
The key with beautifying our lives and our gardens is to remember that if you try to do a bit of work most days, and allow time for growth, in a short while both will flourish. When it rains, or when we have days when we just don't have the time or motivation to work on ourselves or in the garden, we need to remember that rain is necessary to nourish the seeds. Use those days as a welcome rest from your work, knowing that the seeds in your garden and in your brain need nutrients and time to fully develop. For me, the next challenge is to grow some daffodil bulbs, even though I know I won't see the results until next spring!
Richard Blakeborough is a life coach and regular Family Care NZ contributor. One day Richard was a fit and healthy man, then his cardiologist told him he had heart disease and needed a triple bypass.
His e-books, Life After A Bypass and That’s A Big Fat Lie Richard, chronicle his journey following heart surgery and subsequent departure from the corporate world to become a life coach.