Moving Beyond the Midlife Garden Crisis


Shannon SaiaI’ve felt for a long time like our gardens are reflections of our lives, and looking back at what my garden has been over the last decade has forced me to take stock of a life which, frankly, has always felt a little bit out of control. I haven’t blogged here in over three years. In that time, I’ve gotten separated and divorced, and my one-time gardening buddy, who used to play in the mud beside me, has grown into a ten-year-old who has no interest in gardening whatsoever ― unless she can do it in a Minecraft world.

Such is life.

The thing about my garden is that it has just become so much struggle. Don’t get me wrong; there is pleasure, too. But, truthfully, less of it than there used to be. For years I have been trying to keep my garden neat and orderly, but I’ve been fighting a losing battle. All things utterly refuse to be bent contrary to their natures, and my backyard, apparently, wants to be wilderness. I can’t even remember how many times I have tilled it; how many times I have dug it up with a shovel; how much grass I have pulled out by the roots; how many cinderblocks I have moved in a futile effort to create a sort-of Berlin Wall between what I deemed to be “yard” and what I had declared “garden.” I can’t count how many feet of ugly fencing I have put up, and taken down, and put up again, and for no good reason, since every groundhog and rabbit in the area still came and went as they pleased.

But what truly gives me pause is this: I am spending 90% of my time in the garden battling the inevitable instead of actually caring for the plants that I am purposefully growing. And this year, the plants that I was purposefully growing did not fare very well at all.

All of which is to say, my garden and I, too, have been contemplating divorce.

A little over a year ago, I made the decision to return to the corporate commuting world in order to earn a living. This may seem at first glance like an unrelated thought; it’s not. I was sitting in a business meeting last week, and one of my suited colleagues was explaining the “natural” life cycle of a business, which, I can’t help but point out, is not unlike the natural life cycle of a marriage. There’s the start-up phase, full of plans and enthusiasm; followed by the growth phase, in which things go well and there is some success. Then there is the plateau stage, where things are going along just fine, but things are no longer growing and improving. The plateau stage is the status quo, the point where you think, “Hey, what we’ve been doing got us where we are today; why change it?” It is at this point, my colleague stated, that unsuccessful businesses begin to decline. Successful businesses, on the other hand, look ahead and innovate; thus essentially re-starting their life cycle and throwing themselves back into a mindset of plans and enthusiasm for the next great thing.

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