Today my garden has been teaching me a thing or two about acceptance and staying in the moment. The fine spring weather has brought about a sudden surge in growth. I have barely ventured out there this winter but now the new season has forced me into assessing what needs to be done; the rapidly expanding overgrowth once was my garden. The usual winter sessions of cutting back and tidying where abandoned thanks to the troubles with my health. I still feel less than myself – I seem to tire so easily at the moment – but the sunshine is such a boost and a sense of necessity urged me onwards. A short while into cutting back and clearing, I realised that I already felt exhausted and overwhelmed. Normally, I steam in and get loads done but today I had to acknowledge that this was not going to be the case. I set myself the small target of cutting back the enormous buddleia and mowing the lawn, giving myself permission to accept the fact that the garden would not look perfect after I had finished. Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief that the pressure was off.
I have promised myself to do a little everyday in the knowledge that in time all will come together. Patience and acceptance – to someone who is a bit all or nothing – makes for quite a change as an approach to challenges. After my initial panic that I could in no way control the chaos immediately, I began to take some pleasure in the small victories of bagging up the cuttings and composting the dead wood. Normally, I would be working on a kind of wired adrenalin, born out of an urge to get it all done in one but today I found that in acknowledging I could only do a little, I relaxed into it and rather enjoyed the plodding. Despite the massive amount of work still to be done, the garden looks so much better already and although I feel a little pooped, I also feel rather pleased with my achievement.
We can so often push ourselves to exhaustion in order to get things done. Our working lives can feel like they are perpetually on the point of overwhelming us. We empty an in-tray only to watch it fill again. Life surges on – my garden grows with or without my input – how I engage with this relentlessness will ultimately impact upon my greater well-being. I realised today that perhaps I could do with being a whole lot more relaxed in the way I approach things. Ultimately, things get done as long as we act but we have to be honest with ourselves about how we tackle challenges. No matter what pressures we might feel are being placed upon us, they are never as urgent or great as the pressures we can sometimes place upon ourselves. It can be tough to admit that we are in charge of whether we act from a place of manic, adrenalin inducing stress or from a place of calm steadiness. It seems to me that all sorts of things will, and should, take time to get done. It also seems to me that if, as a culture, we give in to the ever-increasing demands that we should do more, more quickly, we are all heading for nervous exhaustion or worse.
I didn’t move any horticultural mountains today but I enjoyed the sunshine, the gentle pace and the quiet pleasure of small, achievable goals. It’s comforting to know that by putting one foot slowly and patiently in front of the other – without thought or concern about the destination – the distances we might cover can surprise us.