My garden was in full production and I’d already been harvesting kale, lettuce, and even some peas. The grape vines were prolific and I’d just finished trellising them to make a beautiful archway. The potatoes were doing really well as were the peppers, peanuts (a new experiment for this year), celery, kohlrabi (also new for this year), leeks, beets, and carrots. The garden was absolutely flourishing and it was just the end of May so I was feeling pretty good about myself. Bear with me as I tell this story because you can relate it to any time in your life everything was going well and then BLAM – an affair, a job loss, a child getting in trouble, and your world as you knew it is changed.
In my case it was a storm. And I do mean a storm. For the first time in 4 years I hid in the hallway. The winds were worst than I’ve ever seen and the rain was coming down hard. While my neighbor has always said I can come to her basement if there is a tornado, I knew there was no way I could even make it to her house in that wind and rain.
And then the hail started.
And it continued.
It was unexpected yet prolific. I mean, like it sanded all the stain off my pergola hailstorm.
And then it rained . . . and rained . . . and rained.
I was afraid to go into the garden after it finally stopped because from the window all I could see was destruction.
Avoiding the inevitable wasn’t going to fix it though.
When I finally got the courage to put on my muck boots (because the garden was mostly flooded), I was devastated. Leaves were shredded on virtually every plant. Vines were broken everywhere. It looked like someone brought a lawnmower into the garden and just mowed over everything.
I’m not gonna lie. It hurt. And I was almost in tears.
This wasn’t just a garden. This was my masterpiece. It was years in the making.
I had transformed this property from an awful, non-productive, hard clay soil into a prolific, abundant area of food production filled with pollinators, flowers, worms, and even lizards and frogs. It felt like someone had taken the giant canvas that I had been working on for three years that looked so beautiful yesterday and sprayed graffiti all over it.
I knew it was petty to be so upset by it. I mean, I was still healthy and had so much to be thankful for in my life.
It was just a garden after all. Why would I be so worked up over a garden?
But it wasn’t just a garden. It was my work of art. And it was my primary food source.
What do I do now?
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Picking Up The Pieces
While my challenge of the week was a garden, yours could be something completely different. Maybe you lost your job. Or maybe you have a job but you got a new boss who you hate. Maybe you had to move because you can’t afford the rent where you live. Maybe you are going through a divorce. Maybe your “canvas” was a happy family that has now been changed forever. Regardless of the circumstance, to overcome these unexpected yet devastating occurrences life tosses over the fence takes resilience and a certain mindset.
Farming, or in my case, gardening requires an extreme amount of adaptability and willingness to overcome all kinds of weather. In the Midwest, you never know what mother nature is going to send your way. We gladly accept the rain (except when it’s too much too fast) when needed but we aren’t so excited about the tornadoes and hail storms. The thing is, we have no choice but to take them both. It’s all part of the package when choosing to live here.
So, here’s my first step in overcoming my most recent hurdle.
Find Something To Be Grateful For
When I went to bed that night I recited out loud the things I was grateful for. This is a necessary step in not succumbing to the desire to wallow in self-pity.
- I’m healthy and safe
- My kids (not living with me) are healthy and safe
- My dog is healthy and safe
- No windows were busted out of the house
- I managed to get my car in the garage 5 minutes before the storm started so there was no damage to my vehicle
- Basically, my home still functions the same (still has running water, electricity, etc.)
- I have the means to buy groceries
- It’s early enough in the season I could re-plant if I want to
Related Article: 5 Benefits of Mindfulness
Resist the Urge to Wallow
When we aren’t our best, we have a tendency to wallow in self-pity and blame everyone and everything for what’s wrong in our life. One way to resist this urge is to remember who you are at your best and recite that out loud. Scream it from the mountaintops girl! It will be difficult at first because you want to wallow but once you get started and get some momentum going, it’s magical!
Here were some of my positive affirmations to remind myself of who I am and what I’m capable of.
- I am resilient
- I am creative
- I overcome obstacles for a living
- I have options and am not afraid to explore them
- I’ve overcome bigger things than this
- I am capable
Related Article: Benefits of Positive Affirmations and 50 Examples
The next day I got to work and started trimming broken leaves and vines to see what was left – picking up the pieces so to speak. I didn’t want to go out in the garden. I wanted to avoid it for as long as possible. But avoiding it doesn’t make it go away. And really it just makes it worse. You may need a day or two to get your emotions in the right place to deal with a significant event but don’t ignore it. It’s the absolute worse thing you can do.
I trimmed broken stems and vines and left the shredded leaves as long as they were attached to an unbroken stem. Plants need the leaves (any part of them) to take in the chlorophyll from the sun. That’s how they grow. They can still take in the vital nutrients the sun provides with even a portion of a leaf. I trimmed the broken stems because I want all of the plant’s energy going into creating new leaves as opposed to trying to fix broken ones. The thing is when plants are stressed like this, they are more susceptible to pests so I want to do everything possible to help them heal quickly.
Let’s take this approach back to your personal life. When unexpected events of life happen, don’t let emotions back you into a corner where you destroy more than is necessary based on the problem at hand. Figure out what is salvageable. Don’t make any rash decisions (at one point I considered just throwing a tarp over the entire garden and saying to hell with it). Allow yourself the space to grieve while looking for opportunities.
Once everything was trimmed, I discovered I still had quite a few plants that might actually make it. While the grape vines had a lot of damage, the grape clusters were still intact (and there were still plenty of leaves and vines). The same goes for the blackberry and raspberry bushes. The kale, spinach, and lettuce were pretty much destroyed but I had seeds and could replant, and honestly, I had planted too much anyway. The potatoes had plenty of damage but within a few days, they bounced back. The jury is still out on many of the other plants but I’ll gladly accept whatever thrives after a storm like that.
Look for the Silver Lining
I like to see the positive in every situation so as I was trimming vines and stems, here’s what I was thinking.
- Maybe this is an opportunity for something else.
- I had been thinking about transitioning to raised beds and this event created an opportunity to try that in a couple of spots if I wanted.
- I had been thinking about selling my house and moving to another state and this might be the impetus to do so.
- I had been thinking about needing more time to focus on business ideas and not having a garden on such a big scale would enable me to have that time.
- I had recently been to the dermatologist who told me I am basically allergic to the sun and need to stay out of it as much as possible so maybe this is the universe helping me out.
Or maybe this is just a good reminder that I can still overcome obstacles, rebuild when necessary, and get on with my life.
Related Article: Not Accomplishing the Goal Might be The Goal
The Garden As A Metaphor
The garden is a metaphor for my life. I see life lessons with every plant, every environment, and every challenge. The occurrences in the garden are also how things work with people, relationships, and virtually anything in life.
- When you nurture things (and people, relationships, health) they generally grow and expand.
- When you ignore things (and people, relationships) they will likely wither.
- You can’t always heal a dying plant (or relationship).
- Pests will do what they know how to do to survive and that may damage (or desolate) a crop if it’s not protected (i.e. watch out for the energy suckers in your life).
- It doesn’t really take that much for a plant to survive and thrive (water, soil, air, sun) but if deprived of even one of the requirements, they will die. It’s not really that complicated. Sometimes we can save them and sometimes it’s just too late.
- We can choose to learn with every mishap (some plants thrive in some locations and some do not) or we can keep repeating the same mistakes expecting a different outcome.
- A diverse garden (flowers, shrubs, variety of plants) is more prolific, controls pests, and is better for the environment.
- Hail storms and tornadoes remind me of the destructive negativity we get bombarded with in our personal lives. And we have choices after the storm has passed.
- We always have a choice regarding what we plant, how we choose to take care of the plants, and when we decide to harvest.
Related Article: It’s Actually Good to Change Your Mind
Whatever “hail storm” has entered your life, you can overcome it. You have choices. Implementing some of these steps will keep you out of wallowing and move you towards recovery faster. Take a breath, face whatever is in front of you, and remember who you are at your best. Then create a plan that works for you and helps you to move closer toward who you want to become.
Related: Are You Living a Life Worth Living