I have found that a change in perspective can be the difference between accepting a circumstance and not accepting it. It is a reevaluation of the importance you place on each situation you might encounter.
The signs of spring weather are finally starting to emerge as we slowly climb out of a long winter here in the North East. While I am delighted by the thoughts of leaving the house without a jacket, walking on grass instead of ice and snow, and seeing the foliage on the trees, spring brings another source of frustration for me. This frustration is another loss of a once enjoyed activity: gardening.
From as far back as I can remember I have loved working outside, planting flowers and vegetables. I had a natural talent, not only to get things to grow, but to create beautiful gardens. When I was fourteen, I went to work for a local landscaper. I worked every summer mowing lawns, digging holes, and man handling a lot of stone. In my early twenties, I broke away from this position and started my own landscaping business. It was hard work, but I loved working with plants, soil, and stone to create beautiful and unique landscapes.
My passion for working with plants and stone has been very evident in every house I have lived in. My current home is no exception. We built the house so over the years I have designed, planted, and changed the landscape many times. At any given moment, my yard looked as if a professional landscape crew had just left. If I had a bad day at work or a stressful week, I spent the evening or weekend getting my hands dirty in my yard. When puttering in my yard, the stress melted away. I would mulch, plant flowers, move shrubs around, or plan a new project. There was nothing more relaxing then my daily wander around my yard pulling weeds and hand clipping branches making sure the shrubs and trees kept a tamed, natural appearance.
My yard was my sanctuary. Keeping it manicured was a pleasure and gave me serenity. It kept me in good physical and mental health. The biggest reward was returning home each day and having the daily stresses disappear as I saw my perfectly groomed masterpiece.
Unfortunately, my once perfectly groomed yard has become a source of pain, stress, and frustration instead of pleasure. I still managed to keep it neatly groomed and adopted many ways to do the work myself, but as my perspective changed with many other things, so has it with my yard.
The first summer that I was unable to maintain my yard was heart-wrenching. I watched years of my pride and joy turn into an overgrown jungle of weeds. Suddenly, due to an injury to my body, my over-landscaped, high maintenance yard became something I couldn’t bear to look at. Since that summer, I have crawled on hands and knees, hopped around on one leg, and endured unimaginable pain in an attempt to keep my yard up to the standard it once was. It didn’t take long after experiencing days that ended in me lying on my back in the grass, frustrated and crying in pain, to realize a different perspective.
In the last couple of years, I have tried to simplify the maintenance of my yard. Someday, I will relocate to a house with much less landscaping to take care of. For now, though, I find ways to manage with what I have.
The first thing I did was trade the walk-behind mower for a lawn tractor. The tractor makes it possible for me to mow the lawn, dethatch the grass in the spring, and clean up leaves in autumn. I also can transport materials and tools more easily.
I gave up on hand pruning my shrubs daily to keep their natural look. I now prune a few shrubs here and there with a few swipes of the electric hedger, while sitting or kneeling on the garden stool. By the end of August, they are all sporting perfectly contrived haircuts instead of a natural tamed look, but the yard appears neat and cared for.
Sometimes, you just need to give in and hire some jobs out. These include jobs like cleaning the leaves that are packed around the shrubs and spreading mulch. Those are two of the toughest jobs for me, and definitely not considered fun. So I hire out a spring and fall cleaning of my landscape beds. This summer, I am also hiring someone to replace all the mulch with brown stone. The stone will be a long-lasting alternative to the mulch. Not worrying about these two jobs will take the stress away and allow me to concentrate on things I want to accomplish myself.
These tools have made it possible for me to still get out and have the satisfaction of gardening/landscaping myself. The jobs that once took an hour to complete now can take me weeks to complete. While this can cause frustration, in the end, the sense of accomplishment is a great reward. I have also done a few things to cut down on the maintenance such as removing some of the more unruly shrubs and only planting flowers in planters.
It’s true that my yard isn’t the pristine showcase it once was, and maintaining it no longer gives me the pleasure and relaxation it once did. However, the funny thing is as I sit on my patio and look across my backyard, and each time I drive into my driveway, I still feel great pleasure and reward. I could not change the reality of my situation, so I had to change how I viewed the importance of my yard. My new perspective is not in the pleasure I get from doing the work and having every detail perfect…. Now, it’s about the accomplishment of keeping it neatly maintained by myself, despite my disability. When my neighbor commented how nice my yard looked last summer, I said, “Not bad for a crippled man!”
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, try changing your perspective on it.