What My Garden Taught Me About Life

I was sitting out in the backyard earlier this afternoon when I looked over at the remnants of my summer vegetable garden. It was bordering on lifeless, with only a few tomatoes left ripening on the vines. A few of their brethren that I had overlooked were laying in the dirt decomposing.

While seeing this sorry state, I was hit by the sudden realization that this garden, any garden, is a close representation of life.

I am not the first to notice this, nor will I be the last. However, I never felt this comparison so deeply until earlier today.

The past few months have contained much introspection. I have been reevaluating my job, career path, relationships with friends and family, romantic relationships, passions, dreams, values, fears, and more.

I have come to realize how unfulfilled I have felt in so many areas of my life. That I wasn’t getting enough.

I used to blame others and life, in general, for all my woes. I was a victim of God, the universe, bullying, or whatever else I felt was unfair.

The inner work I have been doing has shown me that nearly all of my perceived issues stem from my own shortcomings. My lack of being present and aware, being self-absorbed in a way I didn’t think was possible, negative and abusive self-talk, and more.

The state of my vegetable garden brought all of this together for me because of this:

I first started the garden back in late May or early June full of zeal and excitement. I remember vividly how happy I was to have a project to lose myself in while also getting my hands dirty and connecting with the earth.

The first few days and weeks were wonderful as I would add new vegetable plants and tend to the garden as a whole. Every day I would spend a few minutes pottering around, watering, and even talking to the vegetables and flowers I had purchased and planted.

After a few weeks, however, the garden began to lose its hold on me. More accurately, I began to care less. I had been able to get the impulse out of my system and now that there wasn’t much to do but observe and occasionally water, I cared less.

The enthusiasm returned for a bit when the garden began yielding produce. But after a while, I could only get so excited about newly ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, or zucchini.

Fast-forward to the end of summer, earlier this afternoon to be precise, and the garden honestly looks a bit sad. At lest, that’s how it makes me feel to look at it.

Was it the garden’s fault I lost interest?

No. Just like it always isn’t the fault of some external force (whether it be a person or a situation), it was ultimately my responsibility to tend to the garden. I stopped nurturing it because it didn’t give me the same rush of excitement and pride as it did originally.

The state of that garden proved to me that I was solely responsible for the outcomes in my own life.

I helped to build the box. I picked the 30+ bags of soil and poured them into the box. I selected, purchased, and planted the flowers, herbs, and vegetables. I determined when to water and how frequently.

Yes, it is the “job” of the plants to grow and yield vegetables for my consumption. There are also some things I can’t control, such as the weather. But there will not be a successful harvest without my direct involvement.

I am also the one who neglected the plants, let the herbs dry, and allowed quite a few tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini to waste away on the vine or in the dirt.

This is analogous to any endeavor in life. Whether it be a relationship, career, or project, it is our direct involvement that ultimately contributes to anything bearing fruit (or vegetables, to keep in line with my garden theme).

How can I expect anything in my life to flourish if I am not consistently tending to and nurturing it?

If we truly want results in anything, we must exhibit that consistency even when there are times where the excitement wears off a bit.

The lesson this revelation is helping to imprint into my mind is to be more present, more caring, more nurturing, and more dedicated to whatever I deem to be important.

I can’t complain about the results if I know I have not given my best.

The unknown I am now left with, and hope to learn sooner than later, is how to care more? How do I find what to care about and then how do I keep caring? Questions that I know plague many of us.

Until those answers come, let us try to more consistently put 100% effort into our relationships, work, and dreams.

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