The demands on the modern woman are not only abundant but visceral. They charge through our veins, creating an imperceptible sense of worth tied to our performance, our ability to fulfill needs or our expectations of picture-perfectness. I have been a recovering perfectionist for years now, and I have only recently felt like I have unapologetically come into my own.
It’s the gentle unwinding of societal pressure and expectations—all of which amassed in my chest as a ball of anxiety, still slowly being undone one pull of the string at a time.
It was in gardening that I discovered the sense of unruliness and carefreeness I was looking for. I found wild abandon. It cultivated my heart for nurturing, in the ground and in my family meals, but also gave me the freedom I was looking for. I know you may be thinking, “But my grandmother gardens. How can it possibly be wild and unruly?” Oh friend, let me tell you.
Gardening cultivated my heart for nurturing… but also gave me the freedom I was looking for.
1. In the garden, you make the rules
You can plant in rows or clumps. You can start with seeds or buy seedlings. You can grow herbs, veggies or flowers for flower crowns—it’s all up to you. Your garden, your rules. I have tried many approaches, and love that even with a plan, I can go rogue and no one gets hurt. It’s my space to do my thing.
My husband once came out into the garden and said, “It looks so messy. You should clean it up a little.”
At first I was hurt, annoyed even. I stomped inside and said to him, “Babe. The garden is my place to be messy. It’s for fun. It’s for me. Nothing else.”
He smiled. “You’re right.”
More beautiful words have never been spoken.
2. The garden is whimsy
Do you know what makes children’s lives so utterly indulgent? Their sense of whimsy. The play, the nonsense and the magic. The garden is my make-believe—I can be (and usually am) impulsive at the garden center. You can decide against sensible tomatoes entirely, filling your raised beds up with milkweed to attract butterflies.
Anything goes. Let anything go, chase your curiosities—grow the purple sweet potatoes and kale. It’s all for your pleasure.
The play, the nonsense and the magic. The garden is my make-believe.
3. We were not made for ease
What is your relationship like with control? Do you white knuckle through the unknown? Do you have a plan for the plan and a backup plan for all the plans? Regardless, none of it is up to us, and a daily reminder has helped me give it up.
In the garden, we can’t change the weather. We can’t stop all the pests. We have to breathe through these frustrations and be reactive, thoughtful.
Comfort and convenience are modern trappings, tricking us into thinking that we need it all to be easy. No friend, you weren’t built for ease—you were built for flexing your muscles and using your brain. You were built to endure and overcome, to build confidence and inspire others with it.
4. Nature is calling and you must go
There is actual science behind our need as humans to be in nature. Getting our hands dirty, connecting with something universal and raw, it’s healing. It’s soulful.
I’ve learned now, when I start to get pent up with anxiety and life feels heavy, that the garden can absorb my ails. Pulling weeds, inspecting leaves for damage, checking for veggies to harvest—it heals me. It calms my heart and reminds me of our natural course.
Change is constant. It’s how we deal with it that matters.
Getting our hands dirty, connecting with something universal and raw, it’s healing. It’s soulful.
Whether you have two acres or two small raised beds, there is room for us to grow. Whether growing cucumbers or tulips or in patience and faith, I can promise you gardening can help it all.
How does nature inspire you? Have you found there to be a connection between your emotions and being outdoors?
Images via Christianne Taylor