For the past several weeks, I have tried my hand at gardening. Growing up, my mom always had the most wonderful gardens. Flowers bloomed through spring, summer and fall, there were few weeds, if any, and I never remember seeing a wilted flower.
My reality has been quite different. As I sat there, covered in dirt, looking at garden full of weeds and wondering what project to tackle next, I realized that tending a garden is very much like tending our mental health.
It takes hard work and time to create a garden that will flourish and thrive. However, when continuous effort is put in, blossoming occurs and beauty is created.
▪ Building a foundation: Plants require nutrients, fresh air and a safe place to grow. Just like plants, we thrive when we eat healthy, feel secure in our surroundings and have the ability to get outdoors to breathe fresh air.
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▪ Creating boundaries: Garden boundaries help us plan the size, type and quantity of plants to purchase. In life, boundaries are just as important. They can help create structure by setting up guidelines of how we will spend our time. Boundaries remind us of our values and can assist us with living a life that is full of meaning and purpose.
▪ Accepting and appreciating differences: There are so many different flowers. Some that grow tall, some not. Some that spread, some that thrive on small spaces. Some that want direct sun, some only happy if in the shade. By mixing and matching textures, colors and species of plants, we can create gardens that are full of interest and creativity. Just like plants, we are all different. It’s important to embrace the variety. We each bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table and together we can achieve more.
▪ Providing regular maintenance: Those pesky weeds have a habit of popping up when and where you least expect them. It is much easier to pull them when they are young, rather than waiting until they are deeply rooted in the soil. We all face hardships in life. Just like with weeds, it is much easier if we deal with the problem when it first surfaces.
▪ Tilling the soil: Tilling the soil in a garden helps spread nutrients and re-energizes the dirt. We need to “till our soil.” Taking time to try new things and stretching our comfort zones can help us find a renewed sense of energy and zest for life.
As a novice gardener, I have quickly realized that every garden is perfectly imperfect. Weeds will get through, flowers will react differently than anticipated and some seeds will never sprout despite the best efforts. When we step back though, we can admire the things that have gone right. We see the complete picture — the rainbows of color and the creativity that has been shared. Just like a garden, we sometimes need to step back and look at the whole picture. While life may not be perfect, there is so much to celebrate.
Marisa Vicere is the president of the Jana Marie Foundation.