Thursday, August 7, 2008

double bind

In an effort to get my career off the ground, I have spent most of the past two years working diligently, my little nose to the grindstone. Now that I'm halfway through year two, I find myself wanting "my life back". I have developed a serious case of tunnel vision---my job is everything from 7am-7pm, leaving me with little energy or time to give to anything else. Don't get me wrong. I love my job. I feel blessed to be surrounded with nature, to walk in beauty on a daily basis, to feel my feet on the ground and my hands in the soil. But...
I miss my friends. I miss reading for pleasure. I miss going to the movies with my girl. I miss cocktails and laughter and long walks through the woods on a sunday morning. Playing the guitar. Baking scones. So I'm faced with the challenge of figuring out how to remain dedicated to my job and live a rich, rewarding life.
Perhaps I'm suffering from "black and white" thinking; I either give everything to my job or I will fail miserably. Perhaps I need to explore setting some limits around how many hours I can work in a week. I'm not sure what I need to do, but I'm feeling this sense of urgency building in me. Achieving balance feels impossible right now. How on earth do people with kids do this work thing?
I feel some days like it's all I can do to take care of myself.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Midsummer Blooms

In its second season, our garden is really taking off. I've still got work to do: move some plants around that grew taller and wider than I expected, prune back the yews to manageable proportions, plant the 'Little Dot' grass. I didn't realize how much PURPLE I had used!!! I think we could use more orange and yellow for contrast. For an ultra-tiny garden border, I'm happy with it. Still, I'd like to get rid of the lawn entirely...
My anxiety is high today. I have been feeling a tremendous amount of pressure at work, though I think mostly I'm the one applying it. Now that I have been promoted, I feel like I have to perform perfectly all the time. I've got a particularly difficult client that I am trying to please, and I feel like my hands are somewhat tied. I know I made mistakes with him, and now I'm experiencing the consequences. It's difficult to remain mindful when I'm stressed...which is most of the time these days. I've still got such a long way to go experientially---the learning curve for a horticulturist could be the course of a lifetime. I'm working on acceptance. And accepting "acceptance" can be tough. There never seems to be enough time to do what needs doing. There's always more, and more to feel, to see, to push through.

Life is a life's work.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive."--- Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I've noticed that I feel annoyed when other people tell me what I am feeling and thinking. One of my colleagues has made a habit of telling me "I know you were _____, I could tell". My internal response to this is anger, frustration, and defensiveness. Which ironically, she reads as evidence of her initial assessment. In turn, I feel even more helpless, stuck knee-deep in the muck of miscommunication.
Interpretations are judgments, and judgments are a trap. They limit our ability to remain open to reality, obscure the facts, color our sight, and attempt to force others into the story our mind is telling us. The mind is is tricky, ever searching for ways to keep us safe and comfortable. It seems to rely on signs and symbols to make sense of scary, unfamiliar experiences. It's easy to make a habit of judging and interpreting others, in an effort to maintain our own place in the world.
My life and all the baggage that comes along with it---my thoughts, actions, feelings, relationships, and understanding---are my own. And yours are yours. You and I have earned them, having walked around in our own skins, suffered, rejoiced, celebrated our triumphs, and grieved our losses. I don't truly know what it's like to be you. I can empathize, I can share of myself, I can listen to you---but until I walk in your skin and live your life, I don't really know what you are thinking and feeling. To say that I know what you are thinking or feeling is inaccurate and unfair, as it seems to indicate that I know you better than you know yourself. Therefore, my assessment (judgment and interpretation) is true. The thinking behind this is a bit elitist.
Having said this, I think it's important to ask other people for more information. I would feel differently had she approached me and said "I noticed ____, I interpreted it as _____, and I felt ____, could tell me what you were experiencing?" I want an opportunity to gather all the facts before I speak or act in a given situation. Instead of being angry at my colleague, simmering this anger until it boils over into the next encounter, I want to change the pattern of communication we seem to have developed. I guess I have to start from here, from within myself, since it's really the only reference point I have. I think this is respect based communication---respectful of both myself and the other. I think that this is perhaps the only kind of real communication there is.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bright and shiny objects

I'm noticing that the mind has layers and layers of defenses, like an onion. There are countless ways I avoid discomfort: I blame others for my pain, "check out" of my body, ruminate over past injuries, daydream about another (better?) life. To remain fully present takes a tremendous amount of work. Pema Chodron writes that one must do whatever it takes to break out of the patterns that keep us stuck in our suffering. "Sing, dance", just do something different. When you're in an emotional state of mind, this poses a real challenge. I have a habit of disconnecting and floating around the ceiling, a ghostly apparition. This is the purpose of sitting regularly, to bring me back to the present moment, to let my mind do "mind things"without judgment, and choosing to remain calm and centered regardless of what's going on upstairs. My shoulder hurts, my neck aches, I feel like falling asleep. And I sit. My mind prattles endlessly. Thoughts flash, the cool silver of a thousand minnows. And I sit.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Observe, describe, participate

Many clients have told me that mine "must be a dream job, working with plants and flowers all day". True, I feel fortunate to have arrived at this place. For many years, I pursued a career in middle management with a chain of retail bookstores. While the company was progressive, environmentally aware, and offered excellent benefits, job related stress became so out of control, I found myself hospitalized. Quite simply, I had allowed the job and thoughts about the job to take over my body and mind. And one day, both "checked out".
My current employment as a horticulturalist offers me an opportunity to remain much more present and aware of the moment---ultimately, this moment is all we have. Reality is that we can't change the past, nor control the future. There is something to be said about hard physical work. My muscles ache, my middle-aged body complains and argues against it. My mind attempts to negotiate with "This is really hard, I'm tired" and "Oh, aphids again---what's the use" or "I can't wait to get home and take a hot bath". I observe my thoughts. I watch my steps as I navigate through the garden, so as not to misstep and crush the creeping geranium or the bellflower. I listen to the endless prattle of my monkey-like mind, chasing the next pretty thing that happens by. None of it changes the fact that this is my work now, that some of it is hard indeed, that I am sweating in 90 degree heat, that I'm being devoured by blood-thirsty mosquitos, that I am feeling angry about something my boss said this morning. It is what it is.
Yet the immediacy of it all, my hands in moist, fragrant soil, my aching joints, the aroma of phlox and lemon thyme, makes it all real and therefore, clean. The garden has no hidden agenda. For the first time in my life, I feel that I am carrying no baggage, no past or worries about the future.
This takes practice. Some days I am more effective than others. But what I am learning is that my thoughts, distracting as they can be, do not define me. I arrive every day and attend to the needs of the present moment. I can choose to respond rather than react. The true beauty of the garden is now, when the wind, sun, soil, and water are doing their jobs and I am doing mine.
I'm coming to understand that this is what it means to participate in life, to be a part of this huge, amazing world. You start by showing up.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mindful Gardener

I intend to write about my life in the green industry, my passion for nature, and the pursuit of a sane, simple experience here on Earth. Watch this space!