My Garden is a Metaphor

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My boyfriend and I moved in together 3 and a half years ago. I let him do all the ‘running around’ of house purchasing: I didn’t even view our place before he got the keys. When we moved in, the entire space was like a studio owned by Mr. Magorium’s evil twin (if you don’t get the reference, you need to add this film to your list!).

There were strange, almost ritualistic tiles stuck over many walls (cats and gothic crosses, anyone?). The middle floor was like walking on sponge – apparently, not everyone sees the importance in pulling up the previous one (or six…) cheap lino floorings before laying down new ones. Our chimney had no lining. Our pipe under the sink consisted of three different diameter pieces, stuck together with masking tape and gobs of chewing gum. Yes, seriously.

People usually say places like this are a ‘labour of love’ – we definitely love this house, but we could have done with a little less labour!

But by far the greatest gift left to us by this man was our ‘garden’. I say ‘garden’ because you have to be a fully fit, four limbed and nimble adult to get up the incredulously steep staircase to it. When you’re in the garden, it is rather intimate – not in the ‘oh what a glorious suntrap!’ sort of way, more in the ‘if we don’t hold onto each other, we’ll fall through the conservatory roof and land on the dogs’ way. Most people leave behind a few pot plants and perhaps the odd deck chair. But us, oh no, we were MUCH luckier.

When we moved in, in the coldest January in my memory, the ‘patio’ was overgrow with grasses up past my waist. The ‘beds’ were full of weeds, covering all sorts of bin bags and carrier bags and the occasional dead squirrel (I’m not joking). That summer, we ventured outside, and quickly decided we were not getting involved. We paid a man with a van to rip everything out – 2 days later, he left telling us he’d had to bring a friend along as ‘reinforcements’. Since that summer, we’ve always had a bloke (a different bloke, they never come back!!) rip out all the stuff they can pull, purely so a) we aren’t talked about by our neighbours and b) so the weeds don’t actually take over and throttle us in our sleep.

This week, since I left T1, has been a complete mess. In a moment of ‘if I don’t do something, I actually am going to kill myself’ madness, I decided I was going to tackle our garden. Call me mad, but I’ve found real comfort in the process, and the way it mirrors my own ‘process’ of therapy and just trying to keep moving along so that today isn’t the date that ends up on my tombstone. I also took pictures and they’re a bit too boring for Facebook, so, lucky you!

At the Beginning, the Problem Was Overwhelming

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As I stood at the bottom of Mount Everest the staircase, that feeling just below my ribcage hit me like it has done so many times before; a little gremlin, whispering ‘you could go back, not try, give in, perhaps later?’ This little gremlin is fuelled almost entirely by fear, though perhaps a little depression, too. What if I don’t succeed? What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t have the strength.

My Perception of Problems is Often Inverted

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It is an incredibly rare occurrence for the thing I am worrying about, to actually be the biggest issue. Case in point: I was worried about attachment issues upon leaving T1. I wasn’t at all concerned about bulimia/OCD (more later…). That was the same here. I was expecting my beautiful obnoxious flower bed of nettles to be the challenge – stings, vast amounts, eesh. But, after some help from a helpful garden centre man, they’ve been easy to overcome (or will be, once his concoction works!). This goose grass, however (apparently called sticky willies in Scotland!) is a complete bastard – it is easy and satisfying to pull, to start with, because it comes up easy and sticks together so you can fold it into handfuls. But then you’re pulling and pulling and realising just how much it has squashed and overcome and then you feel a little overcome yourself because it just. doesn’t. stop. I’m not too embarrassed to admit that, three bin bags of goose grass later (!!) I sat and cried until I felt a little stronger. Horrible, unforeseen problems that knock me for six. I will win, though! It just takes, like in life, a little time to get over the winded, shocked feeling before I dust myself off and get on.

Linked to this, is Scary Things Aren’t Always Scary Forever

I am very ‘funny’ about spiders. Not haha funny, funny as in I would chew my way out of a concrete cell if I had to spend time with one. Due to the outdoorsy lifestyle we lead, I am getting better and have a more defined panic scale – small is fine, big body spindley legs is ok, big body big legs is a no, visible fangs is likely to induce a heart attack. Ok, only joking, but you get the point… This worry sort of effects all I do in that I always shake out rugs and old boxes, I check twice before sitting on walls etc…. But when I was sat in the garden admiring my destruction pathway, this guy crawled over my foot (spider photo, for those who don’t want to see, look away now!):

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And instead of weeing myself and screaming, I just looked at him. And thought that maybe he wasn’t so bad. I was in his world and he wasn’t doing me any harm. I felt bad that I was ripping apart his home, too. That wouldn’t be very nice. I deposited him in my next door neighbour’s garden, in the hope that he’ll make a new home there. It’s scary being in a world that is falling apart around you.

There is Some Incredible Beauty in the Mess

Remember I said that we haven’t touched the garden since we moved? No plant food, no weed killer, no fertiliser… Hell, no watering! It should be an area of rot and yuk and desperation – and it mostly was. But there is also the most incredible flashes of beauty underneath, quite literally forced down and covered by the weeds.

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The most beautiful, healthy, vibrant rose bush (…tree?!). I found myself, after I’d removed all the goose grass that was restricting its growth and diminishing its beauty, just staring at it. How completely wonderful that, from somewhere so neglected and unloved, this beautiful thing has continued to grow anyway? In this very dark time I’m in, the darkest of all times for me, the reminder that under all this heavy evil will be exceptional fragments of light and beauty.

And finally…

Success Takes Time

Two solid days, four dodgy tan lines, twelve binbags and two very confused puppies later, the garden is about half done. I sprayed it with weed killer yesterday so I have to be patient and let that do its work. Next weekend I need to pull again, rake the stones and spray again. I can water the new alpines I put in, but really, that’s all. It’s going to take time.

In the garden centre, I literally stopped dead in shock at the most beautiful Lilly-plant-thing.

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Isn’t it just spectacular? A sea of my most favourite flowers. I nearly bought it – the garden would look so much better, immediately – but I didn’t. It would be a quick fix, but quick fixes always let me down. Slowly slowly catchy monkey and all that. Success takes time, my healing is taking time, and that’s ok.

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