“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde
The school of Hard Knocks is an educational process I’m sure most of us are familiar with. In my own life, I find it terribly amusing that I can feel close to graduating on a particular subject, such as ‘control of my emotions’, ‘choosing to see what God would have me see’, or ‘accepting what is’ and be presented with a challenge and all of a sudden feel thrust back into Grade 1.
Late last week I had a couple of days in which I was struggling to remain centered in my world. I was not succeeding. My morning prayers did not seem able to immerse me in a sense of light and gratitude as they usually do, and I remained distracted. An interaction with a friend had gone sideways and had soured my usually optimistic view of the world.
Hoping to find solace in the garden I headed out with a task to help my new garden continue getting established: supplemental watering. I unfurled the hose across the garden in my usual pattern, and began showering my perennials and shrubs with love and water. Earlier in the week we’d had some light rain and it had been days since I’d enjoyed this particular task. Not long after sweeping the stream of water over my various young perennials, I began noticing sprouts of something surrounding my baby clump of Echinacea (it’s barely spring in my part of the world).
Upon closer inspection I noticed they were ‘Manitoba Maples’ also known as Box Elders. Dozens of them, growing fast! My heart sank as I continued inspecting the garden and was horrified to learn a very hard lesson: never ever use old recycled bark-mulch. Suddenly I knew why Henry, the ol’ gardener down my block, had shook his head in disgust last year after his warnings went unheeded, observing me spreading the old bark mulch harvested from my sister-in-law’s landscape-fabric-covered shrub garden. Having just moved into her new home, she wanted a different garden plan, and I have always had great luck with bark-mulch keeping down weeds so, yes I would happily take some more from her! My darling husband gathered several big bags of the stuff and brought it home and… well, we’re back to Henry shaking his head at me.
As I stood and stared at my burgeoning forest, I was utterly crest-fallen. The low maintenance garden I’ve been establishing for the past couple of years suddenly looked like a horrible mess in my eyes, insurmountable and ruined. I can see now, in hindsight, I was obviously over-reacting, but I was already feeling out of sorts and this weed-filled-bark-mulch almost felt too much to bear.
I couldn’t bring myself to share the bad news with my husband that evening, so I held my hurt inside, waiting for when I’d feel calm enough to break it to him. That evening, I dreamt of my mother who passed away three years ago, and in it she had an illness, something relatively minor like a bad allergy flare-up but she was uncomfortable and I felt helpless, like I wasn’t taking good enough care of her. When I woke I could not seem to shake off my dark thoughts. It was all too much. I felt like an awful friend, an idiotic gardener, and a terrible daughter for not having visited my mother more before she passed. My heart felt grasped in grief.
Bless my man’s heart, he allowed me to quietly wake him on a sleep-in weekend morning, and upon his groggily asking me, “How are you?” I replied, “Sad”. Sad?! That rare word got his attention. He let me bury my face in his neck and tell him that my friend was still mad at me, that I’d had a sad dream about my mom being terribly uncomfortable and me not being able to help, and that… gulp… all those bags of bark mulch you gathered for me? They are filled with weeds and are ruining the garden! SOB! He held me and I cried out my hurt, my inadequacy, my feelings of stupidity after he had put so much effort into it and it had been my bad idea!
After a few moments of wetting his shoulder I laughed at the situation… the dear man… woken earlier than usual and now having quite bizarre behaviour from his wife, crying about weeds! I laughed at how fun life is with women, with our passions and our feelings (well this woman anyways). I laughed because I genuinely felt better and I knew it. I told him so. I have always felt that tears can build up and actually cause an imbalance to our system if held in too long. My balance was returning. My gratitude prayer permeated my heart much better after that.
Today I prayed when I started the day and enjoyed feeling grounded. I pulled on my gloves and removed all the old bark-mulch from the garden in less than a couple of hours. It was a perfectly mild day and a perfectly pleasant task. That accomplishment has brought me up close and personal with another lesson, learned from myself ~ things can build up and make me feel overcome, but by feeling all my feelings and forgiving myself, I am able to take the pile of problems apart into small and manageable pieces. Then I can see clearly and remember the truth: I am a wonderful friend (regardless of how one new friendship turns out), I am a talented gardener (practice builds talent), and I was indeed a wonderful daughter for my mother (dreams brought on by other worries cannot take that away from me). When I remember to see the way that God would have me see, and I look at myself as I am growing and learning, it’s easy to remember to love myself, just the way I am.