Have you ever told yourself you’d be happy if only you could get control of the mess in your life? This myth persists in my life, and every spring, a fierce internal war rages anew: Victim vs. Wiser Self. It’s the Battle of the Baker Grounds, and it’s ugly.
I like order, neatness, and beauty in my surroundings. Those things feed my soul. Chaos, mess and unkempt appearances stress me. Not that I can maintain my life the way I’d like. I can’t do it all. Not unless that is all I do. I know, because I’ve been miserable trying. Now I prioritize what makes me happy, and do my best to bestow order with what energy remains.
When we needed to divert our landscaping budget towards our growing children’s activities, the appearance of our large yard declined very quickly and violently. Soon we were facing a splotchy, pest-infested lawn, overgrown shrubs, weed-filled, overcrowded beds, and dead tree branches everywhere. It looked awful, much like unwashed hair, dirty broken nails, food in the teeth, you understand.
Not only did it hurt my eyes, but I also felt I was letting the community down. Nestled among the trees at the top of a wide expanse of lawn on one of the main roads in our town, the house is a pretty, charming home built in the 1930s. Neighbors often comment how they love it, so pleasing to the eye, the picture of quiet, small-town warmth and coziness. I believe stewardship is our responsibility.
But…I couldn’t repair the grounds myself, gave myself tennis elbow trying to rip out dead shrubs, and was miserable with all the digging, raking, hauling debris day after day, so I tried to enlist the support of my family. Mass resistance. Anything beyond mowing the grass, they wouldn’t have it. “No time, no interest.” They were unavailable, unwilling, resentful when pushed into it. There was lots of passive-aggressive helping/ not-really-helping. As I lamented my woes to a wise friend, she asked me what I really wanted. When I replied I wanted a peaceful and nurturing home (which I thought I would obtain from a calm, ordered, neat environment), I immediately realized I was creating the opposite of what I was aiming for by pushing my family to help me!
As the thought of all of this manual labour every year was so depressing, I began talk of selling the house. My younger children would cry over the thought of moving, and I do think children thrive under stability, and so want to give them that – a strong and stable “family fortress”.
All of this led to a change in my perspective that inspired me to push on. I was not a victim, sentenced to physical labour every spring. I was a warrior for love. And a $#@!^&* superhero for being able to bring those gardens back to their beauty!
Though pushing to maintain a well-groomed lawn (nor a tidy, clean, organized home, by the way) will NOT make me happy, it IS another opportunity to practice loving, and… letting go.
My solution now is a manageable simplified upkeep, maintenance only, no creative additions, a little each day. But I’m human. I still struggle. This spring, if you happen to see me digging out the beds, hauling mulch, trimming the shrubs and trees, dethatching that never-ending lawn, know there is an internal war raging unseen. Victim is whining, “Why me?” And Wiser Self is standing firm, “You are doing this for love — for your children, who long for a stable home; for the beauty of your community; and for your own need for order and neatness!!! It’s for love, Victim, so retreat, so I can get on with it!!!”
This painting was my first of Millennial Mom and her story. You can see I had tried out a different text box, and her hair was darker. I thought she looked too much like Wonder Woman herself, and so changed her a few paintings later.
One more thing — Millennial Mom’s imagining herself possessing the strength of Wonder Woman is especially significant in this painting, as DC Comics’™ recent storylines see Wonder Woman becoming the God of War…do you see? If you look carefully in this piece, you’ll see a ghostly God of Love gazing down at her from the window of the family fortress, standing guard on Love.
Happy Spring to you, and Happy Gardening.