Monday, May 13, 2013

Life's Little Surprises

I am a worrier. When I was studying for my doctoral exams, I met with my dissertation director every week. One week, I must have appeared especially distressed because he said, "You seem really stressed. What can we do about that?" Hanging my head, I replied, "Oh, if I'm not stressed, I'm not breathing. Best to just move on." I've even told people that if worrying could be made into a career, I'd easily be the CEO of a worry company by now. I used to think this was funny. Now I find it rather sad.

Worrying about everything under the sun really has gotten me nowhere in life. It hasn't made things easier. It hasn't kept bad things from happening. It has simply made me terribly tired and caused me to remain in situations that have been downright destructive for me. It's now time this CEO of Worry resign her position. I have taken one major step in the right direction by refusing to continue working a job that I have known for some time is not good for me. I worried for too long that quitting would call forth countless difficulties, but when the moment came, I told the worrier in me to shut up and quit already. The remarkable outcome of this decision is that I have been presented with three jobs that are all immediately appropriate for and interesting to me. In all my time of fretting, I could not find one job, and now that I have sworn off the fear, the opportunities seem to be falling like manna from heaven. Each day is, as Tennyson's Ulysses puts it, "a bringer of new things," and I actually look forward in anticipation. I am beginning to wonder if my garden hasn't been instrumental in my transformation.

Take, for example, the seed that is the bean. As my regular readers know, I planted beans in my veg garden last week. To be precise, I planted 30 seeds. As of this morning, 26 of them are now up. What a miraculous thing it is to creep out each morning and find something that was once a dried, hard bean peeking its head out of the ground, unfurling in a fresh shock of green, often donning its hardened shell as a cap, and then casting it aside later that same day to start its great ascent.

It's Christmas (Lima Beans) in May!

Or imagine how dubious I was when digging a hole to put in what looked a bit like a skinny sweet potato but is meant eventually to be a stunning lily. I planted the tuber as a memorial to my sweet Wolfie, so the stakes felt a little higher. What if it didn't grow? For a month there was nothing, and then one day, as I sat out in the secret garden on the swing, I noticed something 18" tall where I had placed the tuber. Just when I had begun to lose hope, there was a surge of great joy in the form of a plant.

The Gloriosa superba Rothschildiana (foreground)

The little suprises just keep coming. I have had a Clematis Jackmanii for three years now that has not performed up to expectations. Initially, it grew rather tall, and just as we made proclamations that it would soon cover the swing arbor, it simply quit growing. In its next year, I was too fearful to prune it back, and I was repaid with virtually no growth at all. This year, in the spirit of no fear, I cut it all the way to the ground. It is now over the arbor in just a matter of a month. So once again, my garden teaches me a life lesson: fear stunts growth.

Jackmanii exceeding expectations (through center of photo)

I like the education my garden gives me about life. Often, it's just when we've completely given up on something that it bursts forth, like my Josee lilac, which seems to be telling me that I'm impatient.

The lilac in bloom
And when we have to uproot something from its home (something I've had to do a lot in my adult life), it may suffer a period of shock. But given time and care, it will eventually cling to its new home and flourish. I'm finding that in the garden, as in life, there's really not a lot to worry about because something wonderful is always about to happen.

The Jasmine I had to cut back and move last year


  1. Love this line: "I'm finding that in the garden, as in life, there's really not a lot to worry about because something wonderful is always about to happen." Marvelous.

    1. Thanks, Dana! I'm beginning to wonder if I actually CAN become an optimist! (Even wondering is rather optimistic for me!)

  2. I am glad things are finally falling into place for you, Dr. G!

    1. Thanks! I suspect they always were, Sabrina. I just didn't know how to see it that way. :)

  3. I love this! I'm a worrier too, and reading this post reminds me of another garden/life lesson I've learned. Some plants tend to thrive on neglect, so when I fuss and fret over them, I'm actually doing more harm than good. In those cases, sometimes it's best to just let the plant do its thing, and trust it to "tell" you when it needs extra attention.

    1. I'm beginning to think that a lot of us are worriers! You're right, Robin. Nature shows us quite often that it knows better than we do!