I was doing some gardening the other day. Have you noticed that most of gardening is actually weeding? So I was doing the weeding and hating it because, no matter how much weeding you do, the weeding is never actually done.
And even when you’re doing actual gardening, planting and dividing and planting some more, there’s always a not-done quality to it. The plants go in small and pathetic with lots and lots of space around them, so they’ll have room to grow. After a solid day’s effort, I often stand back, look at the results and say, “Well. Huh….” Compared to, say, decorating, the finished result is often a bit of a let down.
When you decorate your living room, you never have to wait six years for the sofa to grow to its mature size. Nor do you wake up some morning to find that your two end tables have sprouted ten more. No. You do it and it’s done. Which is why I’ve always been better at decorating than gardening.
But somewhere in that train of thought and all the reasons why I hate gardening, the plants that grow too fast or mysteriously up and die, the weeds that rage out of control, the fact that things never look the same from one day to the next, it finally dawned on me: I’ve been looking at this gardening gig all wrong. I wanted it to be something that you do and it’s done and you can cross it off your list. When, it fact, it is never done.
Instead of being a cross-off, like doing up the living room, gardening is a practice, like yoga, or prayer.
And as I relaxed into that realization, I started to wonder: how many other parts of my life am I treating as cross-offs when they’re actually practices? Because getting them confused leads to so much frustration as the practices need doing over and over and over again and I thought we were done with that and why is it back demanding my attention AGAIN?
It’s not the fault of the activity, it’s just a faulty way of looking at it.
So, what are practices, what are cross-offs?
In my life, things like gardening, family and friendship are all practices. Learning is a life-long practice. The rituals of food, sex.
The cross-offs are meetings and projects. But I also, and I think a lot of people do this, break my sacred practices down into disconnected pieces and impose an order on them arbitrarily so I can fool myself that they aren’t ongoing and inherently chaotic, just waiting till my back is turned to sprout weeds and fresh ideas.
Does this make sense to you? Can you think of practices that you’ve been treating as cross-offs? Would realizing that they are practices help you?
I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. Sorry about that. It started with a case of blogger’s block. Then there was a trip, a giant volcanic ash cloud. A new job that is now over. And the endless, endless weeding. I’m back now, though, and very happy to be here. Thanks to all of you who asked! I hope we can pick the conversation up where we left off back in the spring.
Stay tuned – I have much more to say about to do lists….