My friend Harriett and her fencing coach have a lovely expression when people ask them why they fence:” keeping the crazy howler monkeys in your head at bay.” I’ve heard “fighting your demons”, “being mindful”, “the mind-body balance”- call it what you want, but everybody needs something for themselves. I prefer self-care.
Some people are crazy about the coloring books for grown ups, others do Yoga, Meditation- what have you. You need to have something that reminds you of yourself, time that belongs to you, and nobody else.
I love gardening.
I wasn’t always like that. Growing up, my parents had a veggie garden, and us kids were encouraged to get stones out of the ground, and pull weeds. Fun, no? But as I moved out, I started buying potted indoor plants. Then, in California, I had bell peppers and tomatoes. Fair enough you don’t have to do much with tomatoes in California.
In Indiana, it was much harder. You have about four weeks of spring to plant things, then a hot moist, unbearably hot summer full of mosquitoes, before six months of winter destroy everything. People still tried, and so did I. In the end, we managed to have a piece of grass and a few lillies. I also was working like a maniac at the time, all the whilst applying to new jobs, and happily ignoring my deteriorating health.
The first time I was in Portland, was over Easter 2014. It was April and yes, it rained. As we were driving through the different neighborhoods to get an idea of where we’d fit in (and what we could afford!) I was struck by how green everything was and the pride people took in their gardens. On the list of things that I wanted, was a garden. And I got it.
Last year, after my surgery, planting my garden was a triumph. It was late May, and of course too late to plant most things, but I still got some salads in. Considering that four months earlier, I had barely been able to stand up, this was big. I bawled for about an hour after I had planted everything (partially because my back killed me).
This year, I was early. I went to the super-awesome Portland Nursery, and as always, walked out with way more than I had planned. I re-organized my herbs (NEVER plant mint randomly in a garden bed), put them all in pots. I planted lettuce (the gourmet selection, oooh!), carrots, and romanescou. It’s growing like crazy- I like to think because I throw ground eggshells and my coffee grinds on it, but it may just be the sun and good soil.
When I am gardening, I forget about myself, and the daily grind. I don’t have the whatifs plaguing me, and I know that for weeks to come, I will be able to watch my plants. It is a wonderful creative practice, that enables me to do my job and my (slow, but still there) research. It keeps me from overthinking things, and I am outside, getting some of that Vitamin D (which apparently is so important for fighting IBD).
Self-care is so paramount. It helps to “protect your heart” (as my mother-in-law would say), it saves you from yourself and the howler monkeys in your head. What is your self-care? How does your garden grow?