I am not a very good gardener. Often, in the past (okay including the last few months), plants have died from neglect or they’ve struggled for survival in a cocoon of weeds. I don’t mean to kill them, I just forget.
A little while ago my parents bought me a lot of beautiful flowers for my garden. Okay, I did manage to kill two of the plants before they went into the garden BUT, my point is – I was very touched by their gift not only of the plants but of their time and encouragement. Together, along with my kids, we got the garden looking pretty for the first time in a long time.
Since then, I haven’t killed anything.
I get so much pure pleasure from these flowers. Roses, daisies, begonias, geraniums, and some others I’m not yet great on remembering the names of. They greet me when I come home every day and give me so much happiness.
I’ve been really making an effort during these hot summer days to remember to water the garden and make sure the boys weed it.
Tonight, as I stood watering the garden and letting my mind drift (because there’s not a lot else to do) I realised that taking care of my garden is a handy metaphor for taking care of my mental wellbeing full stop.
And you know I love a good metaphor!
Neglecting our happiness, our mental well-being, is pretty easy to do. We forget to weed out the negative and unhelpful thoughts. We think everything is fine and we can just look after it next weekend, when we have more time.
When it gets a bit untidy and overgrown, or things start wilting, we get embarrassed when people come round, or look at it. We feel bad about asking for help because we feel like it’s got that way through our own neglect so we should have to deal with cleaning it up ourselves.
But sometimes it’s really hard to do by yourself.
Sometimes, when the weeds are everywhere, and the flowers are brittle sticks, you don’t even know where to start. It all feels so very overwhelming. And you’re a rubbish gardener anyway. Why bother?
But then maybe you see a little flower blooming through the weeds, pushing its way valiantly to the light. You stop and marvel at it, admire its resilience.
Maybe you ask for help, and people want to help, and you finally manage to clear it all out and replenish it and it brings you happiness again.
As I stood there watering I realised that the only way for me to ensure that not only do my poor little plants survive but that the joy I get from them is ongoing, is by investing time and effort into maintaining it.
It doesn’t take that long either – a bit over half an hour maybe to water my flowers. A little bit of time weeding. A bit of effort to remember to spray the roses and check for aphids.
And it’s the same with my happiness. Now that I have come through an incredibly difficult year of depression and stress and ill-health, I need to make sure I am putting effort into myself – my health, my wellbeing. I need to make sure I am keeping the weeds away regularly. Part of self-care is practicing positive self talk. I need to water the things that bring me joy – spending time with friends and family, writing, reading, exploring – even when perhaps I feel it’s too hard.
The focus on effort is not an accident. Being positive takes a lot of energy and sometimes hard work. Keeping demons at bay requires consistency.
It’s worth it for my garden, and it’s worth it for my well-being and my happiness.
How will you water your happiness in 2019?