Some things deserve a closer look

Five life lessons, learned from gardening

Deadline mentality, it’s gotta get done, now or never, or it’ll be too late, just a bit more, you’re almost there. None of this is working for me. Nature (and by this, I also include my own physical being) is trying to tell me something, and I think it’s time to shut up and listen. Here’s what it’s saying:

 1. You can’t do it all by yourself.

An important lesson for me, as a person who always wants to do it all by myself, out of a stubborn sense of not wanting or daring to ask for help. Though I know I really need it, lots of help. Or lots of time, which is another lesson I need to learn.

2. Pace yourself.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve said this so many times to other people, in other situations. Now I had to hear it from my very own husband, as I lay on the sofa with all my muscles aching from pushing myself to finish clearing out the back of the garden, all in one afternoon, on a whim just before I was going to head home after doing a lot already. Just because I picked up an old board from a broken fence that had been bugging me for a year. Next thing I knew I was toting wheelbarrows of trash on 15-minute walks to the trash pile and back. The results are sublime, but was it worth the pain?

Taking time to relax with Bram

3. There’s plenty of time.

This is what a Turkish man told me, who has had his garden for 20 years. We did our community gardening chores together, and I got irritated at his slowpoke lumbering and he stared at my frenzy of effort. The tortoise and the hare. Except this isn’t a race. “If we don’t finish this week, it will get done next week,” he said to me. He’s right.

4. It’s never finished.

Deadlines have ruled my life for so long. Coupled with procrastination, it makes for a heady cocktail of adrenaline and cortisol. Rush, crash and burn has been my work ethos. Get the job done and get outta there! So why did I commit to a garden? I love plants, I love green, I love the smell, I love the fiddling around in the dirt and deadheading. I just didn’t expect I’d get so fanatical, and that it would be so physically exhausting.

5. Give your body a break.

Chronic secretarial spread and repetitive strain injury typify my physical condition. So after a day of headstrong overexertion, I wonder why my armpit muscles ache and my lower back won’t straighten up? Who even knew there were muscles in your armpits! I’ve never taken the time to learn to squat instead of bending over, or to lift from the legs. And hoeing heavy black clay hurts after an hour. But who keeps on going, even though her body says, “Please stop”? After a few days of this neglect, my body stopped for me. Thanks. Another lesson learned. Hopefully I’ll remember it.

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