How you do Anything is How you do Everything
May 5, 2016
I recently spent a Sunday morning working in a friend’s garden and learned a lot about myself (and how I do life) in the process:
I’m afraid of gardening. I know it sounds weird, or silly, or trivial, but it feels true.
When I walk towards a garden bed, I feel trepidation. It’s the unknown. I couldn’t (and still struggle to) tell a common weed from a budding flower. I see a mess of stems, leaves, dirt, bugs…but I haven’t trained my eye to zero in on what is supposed to be there versus what isn’t. It’s all foreign to me.
I feel tentative around plants, worried that the slightest misstep will collapse the entire garden ecosystem into ruin. Seriously, the entire garden – dead – because of me.
I’ve got irrefutable evidence that I can’t be trusted: I’ve killed succulents and other plants people claim to be indestructible.
Lately I’ve been going to the local nursery with the intention of buying a plant…a simple houseplant…and over and over, I’ve left empty handed, unsure of where to start, afraid to try and fail. It doesn’t feel safe to experiment: to simply play around with gardening. To try things out and pay attention to what happens…More/less water, a little plant food, pruning, repotting, more/less sunshine… “Whoa! You have no idea what to do!” my mind screams.
I feel disconnected from what’s growing around me.
Of course, the reality is that how you do anything is how you do everything.
How I experienced gardening was a microcosm of how I experience my entire life: I have a cautious, fearful, suspicious streak. I feel overwhelmed by all of the options, and struggle to zero in on my heart’s desire. I take responsibility for outcomes, feelings, circumstances that I had nothing to do with – since when is your bad mood my cross to bear? Trust is often thrown out the window in favor of control. My mind makes up that I’m alone and disconnected.
A clever friend once told me: “You’ve got to see it, to free it.” Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Pema Chodron said, “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” Basically, there is broad agreement that awareness is a gateway to freedom. Becoming aware of our patterns – cozying up to them and saying, “Hey there, I see you…” – opens the door to growth and change.
I experienced a taste of this while gardening: I felt timid and fearful, but showed up anyway. My friend and I cheered when I successfully spotted a weed by myself for the first time, and giggled when I accidentally half-dug up a poor unsuspecting flower (who she swears will live to tell the tale). There were moments when I simply stood back and watched my friend work, marveling at how bold and confident she was. It was less about me not being good enough, and more about my future potential – a peek into what I could be like, if I put the work in. We filled up an entire 55 gallon garbage can with weeds, and eventually I couldn’t quite remember why I’d been so afraid to begin with. In that moment, I felt powerful and connected.
As we become aware of our fears, they naturally shift, morph, change, and loosen their grip. And each time our relationship with fear changes, how we approach life changes… After all, how we do anything is how we do everything.