Tending your garden . . . slowing down . . . the journey


Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
May Sarton

Last year's backyard garden: tomatoes, basil, cucumbers (left), lettuce, spinach, garlic, carrots, herbs, snow peas (right)

Last year’s backyard garden: tomatoes, basil, cucumbers (left), lettuce, spinach, garlic, carrots, herbs, snow peas (right)

Gardeners don’t just grow a garden. They tend a garden. Gardeners nurture their gardens.

I am a task-oriented person. I like the bottom line. I like completing something. I like accomplishing. I am also ADHD – Inattentive Type. What a dichotomy that creates. Such a cycle of frustration. Too funny! This post started out as a musing on tending a garden and my ADHD sent me on this rabbit trail. But it is an appropriate, meaningful rabbit trail, so I shall follow it for a time.

There is this huge part of me that needs to complete tasks. There is this innate part of me that makes it so very difficult to complete anything. Then, Lyme disease enters the picture. In 2006, I became very sick. I was stopped in my tracks. The brakes were slammed on, hard. I crashed. Cessation of activity. Cessation of accomplishing anything. Now I know why I went into such a depression. My very driving force, the part of me that gave life meaning, was denied access to any kind of release or fulfillment. Freud would be so proud of this revelation!

Rabbit trail from the rabbit trail: if you care for or are in the life of an elderly or chronically ill person, do whatever you can to help them accomplish something. If they have a list of tasks that have been growing and growing, help them check something off. This gives them immense satisfaction, and they will feel loved. At least that is how it works for me. A few years ago my 23 year old son and one of his friends were unemployed. They came over here a couple of times a week to help me take care of this house that has the mortgage paid but is falling more and more into disrepair. I could barely get up to show them what I wanted them to do, but I did and they did, and I was so very happy. Then my access to funds was cut off, my credit cards were cancelled without my permission, and that little pleasure was gone and I was again stuck accomplishing nothing and fell into helplessness again (but not for long).

Okay, hopped back to the main rabbit trail now. So this task-oriented me becomes so sick that I can’t even take a shower without ending up in bed for two days. Time goes by. Somehow I find a spark of fight in me to find a doctor who will treat my persistent Lyme disease, I get a year of antibiotics, and voila, I am high functioning. My brain isn’t really back yet, but my body moves. I can walk to the bedroom, to the bathroom, to the kitchen without collapsing in a heap. Then I push, start to exercise (with the help of physical therapy), start to fight back even more, and take my supplements, try to eat well, try to continue to exercise (which is very important to anyone with chronic fatigue), find pleasure in photography and the occasional culinary accomplishment.

Time goes by and I recover to the point where I think I can grow a garden again, after years of not even wanting to step on the grass outside my front door, years of refusing to walk in the woods, or down to the pond. I put aside my fear of being re-infected and grow a garden last year. It is beautiful, life-giving, though not abundant in its yield. That’s okay. We did eat fresh, organically grown tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, snow peas, lettuce, spinach, and most importantly, pumpkins. Sugar pumpkins. Yum! Yes, the pies were divine!!! I accomplished something with the help of my strong sons (okay, mostly my strong 20 year old — he did all of the heavy lifting, so to speak), but they all contributed a bit.

I began to learn something profound through the process of growing that garden last year. Because I chronicled the entire season on my other blog, and I photographed what I grew, something was awakened. I don’t know if it was a level of maturity that I lacked previously. I don’t know if because some parts of me were broken and dead, other parts began to grow to fill in the void. I honestly don’t know. I do know that I began to enjoy the process of gardening. I began to find fulfillment in the process itself, the making of bread, brewing kombucha, drying herbs. I began to celebrate the days when I could drag a garden hose all around my yard and water my plants (even if it did exhaust me — I’m not cured, just higher functioning). I was changing.

That underlying frustration and anxiety that I had felt for years because life was not being attended to as it should (really, normal people are able to clean their houses, wash the windows, keep the kitchen clean, and even scrub out a toilet, mow the yard, deal with the trash, clean up a spill — all of these things are very difficult for me and are never attended to properly) . . . that underlying frustration and anxiety began to diminish. It isn’t gone. It will not go away because I am a single mom trying to handle my own illness, my 17 year old’s health problems, getting braces started for my 13 year old whose teeth are being pushed around so badly they feel loose to him, dealing with Asperger’s, bipolar disorder, and depression in adult children, and somehow providing food for all of us that won’t kill us or make us feel worse. But it is better. Instead of feeling like a complete failure because I can’t do what needs to be done, what most people have no difficulty doing, I am finding satisfaction, delight, and even joy in the process of caring for my garden, caring for my family, even my coursework. I cannot look at the end result somewhere in the future because, to be honest, I can’t even see it. I started school with absolutely no end goal in mind except to prove to myself that I could do it. I worked through the financial aid process, registered for my classes and bought or rented my books. I made it to every class, not missing even one. I enjoyed every Algebra homework assignment. I enjoyed writing every essay, though some of the topics I chose were unpleasant. I enjoyed the drive to and from class every single week. In my garden, I enjoyed and continue to enjoy expanding the growing space, adding organic matter, and feeding my compost pile. I enjoy pushing every single seed into the soil, watering and tending to them daily until they push up green heads while their roots go deep.

Where before I was living in a state of helplessness, was almost completely paralyzed (except for caring for my children), now I find myself enjoying the process, the details, the journey. Yes, instead of a Pony Express rider, I have become a hobbit on an afternoon walk through my beloved Shire, through life. I have learned to enjoy and appreciate the simple things, the little things, even the tiny things in life that had I been rushing towards the finish line I would have missed.

Wintergreen growing beneath the pine tree near the pond

Wintergreen growing beneath the pine tree near the pond

I am enjoying the journey (mostly).


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