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  • Shirley

Beauty in Letting Life be What it Is

July 18, 2020

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but this is a picture of our garden in our backyard. It doesn’t look like what I wanted, but this year, this wild and crazy and unkempt space is showing me a different perspective that I think I have probably needed to see for a while now…

I have always wanted to learn how to grow my own food. When we bought our house a few years ago, I was delighted that this big beautiful garden space already existed, and I was excited about the possibility of finally achieving that dream. I had a vision of a bountiful garden full of all kinds of tasty veggies grown from our care and attention. Or at least a couple of tomatoes (oh how I love sweet, tasty tomatoes)…

But this goal has proven more challenging than I anticipated.

Year 1, Garden Failure. But that was okay, because really, who has time for a new hobby when you have an infant and a toddler and just moved into a new house? (I’m still kinda amazed by my body’s ability to just make it through each day at that point, since I was still working full-time in the lab while Lauren continued to want to nurse 5-6 times every night until she started sleeping through the night at close to a year and a half.) So it was okay that we had no garden in Year 1.

Year 2. My garden ambition continued. We tilled the soil with the help of my partner's dad, and even planted some seeds. However, the weeds were overwhelming, and I couldn’t keep up. Probably again related to the massive effort required to “keep up” with all of life’s demands when you’re a working mom with a brand new job and two young kids. So as summer progressed, I watched with disappointment and feelings of “not enoughness” as the weeds got out of control, leading to my partner deciding that he should weed whack the entire garden. Including the single sad plant that had actually managed to grow from our seeds. I was even more determined that we would make this garden work in 2020.

Year 3. March 2020. This was it! No excuses anymore because “free time” was forced upon us with COVID lockdowns. And this would be a great activity to do with the kids, now 4 and 2.5 years old. Right? So we started the giant task of pulling up the weeds. The girls were mostly into collecting the worms in their hands (yuck!), but got bored with it pretty quickly. I got about a quarter of the garden free of weeds. But then allergy season hit. I get severe, full body reactions to seasonal allergens, making it close to impossible for me to be outside during most of the month of May into early June. For some reason, this year allergy season extended to early July (because of course, it’s 2020, and nothing in this year is predictable). I watched with disappointment as the weeds grew back before we were ever able to really get it set up to plant anything.

Around the beginning of June, I started to accept the reality that my garden ambitions had failed again this year, too. Even though this is just a garden, and not something to get super upset about, my failure at the garden dream yet again brought up some stuff for me. Feelings of not enoughness. Ambitions not achieved, plans not realized, order and organization out the window. In a lot of ways, it was reflecting feelings that I think many of us probably had around that time. And maybe continuing now, as we try to figure out how to balance our personal/professional ambitions and desire to make a difference in the world with slowing down to provide for the development of our children and safety of our communities, and while the wellness of our society remains uncertain for the immediate future.

But in recent weeks, our wild and crazy and untamed garden has helped me with a new perspective. When I go out and look at the beautiful wildness growing in this garden now, it’s teaching me to recognize the beauty that can still happen when you just let it go. Let it be what it is, unordered, unorganized, unplanned, and appreciate the beauty in what it is. Same thing with this time in life. So many plans & ambitions, mostly unrealized. This period of time may not yield anything outwardly productive, but there is beauty. Beauty in the connections with the kids, in recognizing that we are ok despite the world stress, the shared sense of taking care of each other that has become obvious (at least among a certain proportion of the population). Beauty in recognizing that we can be okay as individuals without achieving to the levels that we otherwise would have. Beauty in not knowing what we’re doing and watching what happens and how we grow as we figure it out along the way. Beauty in identifying that which we value most and cultivating it (for me, it’s making sure that as a family, we are healthy and loved). Beauty in becoming more confident in my parenting. (Yes, there have been bad days, some with screaming involved. [Mostly between the girls. Mostly.], but it has also been incredible to see my influence on them as they grow on a daily basis.) And beauty in learning that our ability to meet external standards does not have to define us and that our voices matter, independent of what we have achieved.

So thank you garden. I will continue to consciously appreciate your wild beauty every day I can this summer as a reminder that even when we are not exactly where we planned to be, we can still shine bright and contribute something exquisite to the world just by existing and letting each moment be what it is.

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