My husband says I could never let a plant die. I do have fern that I received before I married him. His mother gave it to me to see how good I was at caring for living things. Fern has followed us to every home we’ve lived in together for over thirty years and much like my husband, is still thriving.
I am not a perfect gardener though. When a miniature rosebush dies after a harsh winter or the dahlia bulbs don’t survive after a winter tucked away in cold storage, I do feel a sense of responsibility. I question whether or not I could have done more to prevent loss.
I plant tomato seeds inside each spring. One of the most difficult things I have to do is to pinch off seedlings to let others grow better. Okay, I’ll admit it. I usually I try to save all the seedlings by transplanting them into new containers and then planting them all outside in the spring. The result of too many tomato plants growing in a small space is a jungle of vines that climbs up trees and over bushes. It is also really challenging to find a space to stand to pick the tomatoes and the low-lying ones are hard to see. I know that I would probably get better tomatoes if I had fewer, better-spaced plants.
Two years ago, I decided to take a self-funded leave from work. My oldest brother had recently died in his mid-fifties and had never been able to enjoy retirement. I decided that there were a lot of things I really wanted to do in my life while my health and mobility were good. After thirty years on the job, I could use a break before retirement which was still at least a decade away. My leave application was approved, and I was able to spend the next fifteen months working and banking some of my salary which would be paid out during my leave. Living on a lower income can be scary but we managed just fine.
In the seven months I was away from work, I logged over 35,500 km in voyages in six different countries. I swam in pools, oceans and lakes; scanned hundreds of family photos; painted fifteen paintings and performed in a musical. I enjoyed summer theatre performances and dance recitals. I slept in; cooked and baked for the family; visited museums and art galleries; did volunteer work; walked my dog; gardened and enjoyed vacation time. Family, friends and strangers welcomed me each step of the way and helped make the time more memorable and meaningful.
I returned to work refreshed but changed. I decided that many things in my life needed pruning. I have been cleaning out my closet, donating items to charities and refreshing my wardrobe. I left a part-time job and a group that was no longer challenging me to grow my abilities.
The time I gained by cutting out those commitments has given me the opportunity become a student again. In five weeks, I completed two online certifications. I have just a few weeks left to finish an in-class course. More importantly, the choice to change has led to new insights and a deep sense of renewal and growth.
Pruning and thinning in the garden and in life is difficult. You might be worried about loss that comes with change. Even if you cannot afford to take time away, re-evaluate your commitments and be sure to make time for yourself. Even something small like evening walks several times a week may help. Once you escape from the jungle, you can focus on what makes you thrive and blossom. Remember, plants produce the most beautiful blooms if grown in the right conditions.