By Angela Haugen
We moved into a new house this last year. It hadn’t been well-cared for, so the number of projects to do were endless at best. Since the weather was changing to spring, we decided to tackle the outside first so the kids could be out with us.
I looked at the landscape and almost waved my white flag of surrender before even starting. Even though I knew it needed change, I scanned the yard and didn’t know where to start.
I think recovery can look a lot like this. We know something needs to change and we even know there is something more waiting for us in the end, but getting started – getting dirty – that’s the hardest part.
So as I took on this goal of trying to find beauty within the weeds, here’s what I learned in the process:
Start somewhere – anywhere.
The yard was literally so full of weeds and overgrown brush that I didn’t even know how to formulate a plan. I had no good strategy. One day, our friends brought over a leaf blower and just started gathering up pieces of the mess. It was just the beginning, but so valuable. After that, I just decided to start pulling weeds. Recovery is similar – you don’t need to know how you are going to make the changes that need to be made. Start somewhere. Get a counselor, talk to a friend, be honest with someone about what you are struggling with. Any step in the right direction is a beginning.
It’s not a one day project.
I finished the first day and felt alive with all that we had accomplished. I was no doubt going to be done and have a whole new yard in weeks. I may not have had a vision, but I had a goal. I thought I could will my way through, but the reality was weeks of on and off rain and tons of setbacks in other projects that took my focus off my goal. Weeds kept coming, I needed new tools, as well as extra hands. It was definitely not going to be a fast project. Once you take that first step in recovery, it’s easy to think that it’s going to be a quick and easy fix, but the reality is often quite different. You can make great strides in adjusting your perspective, only to have old hurts and painful relationships sidetrack your efforts. You may need to try new tools for self-talk or join a therapy group for a while to be reminded that you aren’t alone. Recovery is a journey, not a project.
Weeds are complex and come up… all the time.
I pulled, raked, yanked, hoed, tilled the soil – but weeds still came. Weeds come in dense patches. They come widespread. They are just below the surface. And they are deep in the soil. They can look just like a plant while totally choking out something that is trying to thrive. Weeds are funny things because the ground can appear completely clear, but a little rain or inattention, and pop up they come again. Landscaping, like life, requires constant attention – diligent effort to make sure that you are on top of all that is going on around you. Negative and unhealthy thoughts, just like the weeds, are are trying to choke out the beauty in the surroundings. They can easily be hiding just below the surface. Recovery will be an ongoing maintenance of catching thoughts before they bloom too full, so they don’t get a chance to ruin what is lovely. You may not be able to catch them all at once, but you can keep an eye out for them so they don’t grow too fast.
It’s ok to work on one section at a time.
I saw the big picture of the lawn and knew my end goal I wanted to be done, but realistically I need to take on one chunk at a time. Each time I’d weed and water and plant, I’d celebrate my accomplishment for that part, it looked good and I’d worked hard. Working hard on one area of recovery is a valuable part of the journey. There is a lot to celebrate in each part of the process that you work hard on; celebrate it. It’s ok to only have the energy to take it one part at a time – legalize one food, capture one thought, release one part of your hurt. Celebrate all you’ve done and where you’ve come from. Pick your next area to do, but then remind yourself that this area will still need to be weeded and maintained occasionally as well.
You’ll learn… and change your mind.
We initially picked a spot for our kids to plant some flower seeds. It was a cute nook and seemed a great place for them to be able to participate a bit. The seasons were moving quickly and I had my green thumb cruising so I rushed it a bit and quickly yanked out weeds, did a few swipes with the rake, and after seeing a mostly dirt-ed area, I had the kids plant their seeds. It didn’t go well. I hadn’t realize how little sun that area got and these seeds required a lot. I also didn’t know that they were better planted at another point in the year. None of these things led to good results. Additionally, with our heads out of the proverbial weeds, we had more time to make a better plan for the yard. It was time for a restart in this space. I had to dig the area up again – more thoroughly – and ended up relocating the plants that would do better in a new area. Recovery was a lot like this for me. I rushed some things and had to come back to them. There were things that seemed like a great idea to try, but they didn’t work well for me. I needed to find what worked for who I was and what season of life I was in. I know certain areas of my life are well-cared for and getting just the right light. I can also tell when other areas aren’t getting enough light or water.
The more you pay attention to your landscape: what looks and feels beautiful to you, what thoughts help you grow and change and which ones don’t, seeing where you need extra help and where you can get victory on your own – the more you do these things, the more you realize that you won’t always get it right and you may need to make a new plan, but your hard work will pay off.
I hope that your garden grows – that you flourish and bloom in the space that is just right for you. Remember, making your own landscape is a journey and not just a project.