Spring has arrived and the garden is waking up. Although some plants are still a bit groggy, there’s enough rise and shine action to get me excited. The tall rosemary has burst out in tiny blue flowers, the evergreen clematis has resumed its fragrant march over the arbor, the native grasses have bounced back nicely from their mid-winter haircut, and the society garlic has sent out one long stalk with a pinkish purple bud at its tip. Mmmmm, I love the garden.
And yet, yesterday found my husband and me not in the garden but rather on the computer, mooning over a cool looking condo. It had a mini patio, but certainly no garden.
Wouldn’t it be nice, we reasoned, not to have to take care of a big yard? No more pruning, planting, feeding, mowing, weeding, and watering. No more Saturday morning urgings: “Come on, we’ve got to get out there and do this!” No more Saturday afternoon/evening resignations: “We’re losing the light and we’ve got to quit; too bad we didn’t start sooner!”
After two hours in this fantasy world we turned off the computer and went about the rest of the day. But the condo floor plan was still dancing in my head as I sorted the laundry. I envisioned the furniture I’d keep and where I’d put it. The stuff I’d get rid of. The simpler life I’d have as a result of this downsizing. I imagined waking up Saturday mornings and feeling…free.
And then I stopped in my tracks. A familiar pang: but what about the garden? What about its beauty? Its life? Its history? Those moments when I walk through it and simply delight in it. Summer dinner parties shaded by the big birch trees. Lazy afternoons with a good book on the patio. Chilly nights in front of the fire. Staying up late to watch the annual Perseid meteor shower with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders.
My “good times in the garden” reverie just about pushed me into a classic case of pros and cons (condo with mini patio vs. house with garden), but I stopped myself before it erupted. When I engage in that kind of thinking, I find that I just keep going around in circles. Luckily I didn’t get trapped this time. Instead, I got a flash of real insight:
MY DIFFICULTY IN MAKING THE DECISION TO DOWNSIZE MY LIFE IS NOT ABOUT WHAT I HAVE TO GIVE UP, BUT RATHER ABOUT WHAT I HAVEN’T YET FULLY EMBRACED IN THE LIFE I’M LIVING NOW.
Okay, I know that’s a mouthful. I can’t think of any other way to say it, so let me try to explain. Simply put, I’m spending too much time thinking about the future (in that condo or elsewhere) rather than fully living right now. I’m spending too much energy resisting what’s here right now. And that’s no way to make a decision about the future. In fact, it’s a recipe for regret.
But many of us do it. We’re programmed to. We’re strivers, so we look ahead and imagine better/newer/different. This can apply to any area of our lives: jobs, relationships, places, things, activities, etc. And better/newer/different sounds good, doesn’t it? But what I see over and over again with my clients (and myself) is that it often leads to less certainty and more stuckness. More hesitation and equivocation:
“Well, I think I want that but I’m not really sure because I don’t know how it would turn out and I might have to give up this other thing and I don’t know what people will think and maybe I don’t really want it so much after all because if I really wanted it then I’d be doing it so what does that say about me so maybe I’ll just wait awhile longer and think about it some more because if I do that I might get one of those ‘ah ha’ moments I’ve heard tell about and that would solve the whole problem because then I wouldn’t have to make a decision after all.”
Whew! We’ve all been there before, at one time or another. But this constant thinking about the future doesn’t get us any closer to a decision. And it doesn’t usually make us any happier. In fact, I’ve just about convinced myself that maybe the best way to make a decision about the future is to welcome the present, live it with all the gusto you can, and trust that the future will reveal itself naturally.
That’s exactly what happened to Bill Murray in the movie Ground Hog Day, which I saw recently. Something made me want to return to it after many years. The timing was great, because it perfectly illustrates my current insight. Who knows, maybe it even had something to do with it?
Anyway, back to the movie. In case you haven’t seen it, the main character keeps living the same day over and over again. It is not a pleasant day for him to begin with, so he tries everything he can think of to change it and get his life moving again. Nothing works, however, and it appears that he is doomed to live this one day for eternity. Until, that is, he decides to welcome the day and live it with gusto. To stop fighting it and make it the best day he can. Although it’s not shown in the movie, I suspect at some point he asks himself, “Why not start now and fully embrace this day?” When he does that, the page on the calendar finally turns over and the future arrives.
Personally, I don’t want to live the same day over and over again, stuck in an endless decision cycle of condo vs. house. In fact, I know I will move to that condo one day, but before I do I want to make sure I’ve truly savored the garden and my life right now. I want to be able to look back and say I lived this part of my life with gusto. Truth be told, I haven’t. In my race to get to my version of better/newer/different, I’ve sometimes lost sight of the here and now. So I’m happy to realize there’s still lots of reading and partying and reflecting and star gazing to be done out there in my garden, along with planting and pruning and weeding, of course!
As, Patty — you wonder why I’m commenting on a nine-month-old post? Easy answer: thanks to your visiting me, I’m visiting your site and decided to begin at the beginning with your first post, and go from there.
This sentence captured me: “I’ve just about convinced myself that maybe the best way to make a decision about the future is to welcome the present, live it with all the gusto you can, and trust that the future will reveal itself naturally.” I began living my dream of being a fulltime RVer about six years ago, and I’ve been in heaven ever since. Every now and then, I think “OK, what’s next?” and I’ll wonder about changing things up a bit, like maybe trading my travel trailer for a small motorhome and spending more time traveling the country instead of being plunked down in one place for six months at a time. I think wisdom eventually sinks in again, and I’m content again, still in love with my life as it is, not concerned with what it might be later. I SO appreciate the thought that went into that one sentence of yours, and the way you so simply say it — if thoughts about the future arise again, I believe I’ll remember that one sentence of yours!
By the way, your posts are awesome, so I guess that means you are too 🙂 — what a great collection of mini-essays (oops, I just gave away my idea, LOL).
Hi Jeanne – Welcome! I’m so glad you came by. And I’m honored that you would go back and read these early posts. Thank you so much for your kind words. You seem like the living, breathing role model of what I was writing about in this piece, and that inspires me. And I have to say, it’s good for me to remember what I wrote earlier in the year, because sometimes I forget. I think that’s the thing about wisdom – we get an insight or glimpse, but have to constantly remind ourselves of it.