I don’t like dandelions. I don’t like crabgrass either or other weeds, but my dislike for dandelions is extreme. For the past two weeks I have been outside every day with my forked tongue garden tool digging up the dandies. They yield willingly to me after a rain or in the early morning when the ground is soft. When the grass turns brown from lack of rain, the dandies thrive in spite of it, sticking out their dandelion tongues at me in defiance. See, they say, I will grow in any weather in any soil and spread my seed across your yard and push out your grass. I leave little piles of their bodies, drying in the sun, and pick them up later. When you have over an acre of yard, this is no small task, especially after a spring and summer to grow free and spread at will. I fight them, and they fight back, coming back in the same areas the next week and hiding under the shade of trees or growing under bushes.
Sometimes life feels like my battle against the dandelions. Despite my hopefulness, bad things happen. One plumbing crisis is resolved, and another rears its head. Pulling weeds is like the game of whack-a-mole. They just keep coming. We had the hornet’s nest removed, and then found the bees in the house. We still need to find a handyman to fix the drywall in the ceiling from the leak upstairs, and hope that the floor itself is still okay. You do your best to plan and act pro-actively, but stuff happens as reliably as the weeds that come back and come back and come back.
Is there a point to this?
Is money the answer? We could throw a lot of chemicals at the weeds and hire a gardener. Then I would have the nicest front yard in the neighborhood. Well, except for my one neighbor who is a landscaper; his front yard IS the nicest. So, here’s the but. Does this make me happier? Does it improve the quality of my life? What am I losing by focusing my attention on the weeds? Does getting rid of the weeds mean I now have time for something else more critical or is it just busywork. As I mentioned in an earlier post, being busy does not mean you are doing something worthwhile or meaningful. Washing dishes and doing laundry comes to mind.
Which leads me to another point. I have friends who have houses that are immaculate. They always look neat and tidy and clean, as if the vacuum was run every day and dusting and clutter clearing happens regularly. Their houses look like a picture in a magazine. There are no newspapers open, no half drunk cups of coffee by the sink, no lingerie hanging in the shower. This is not how I live. I keep up with everyday chores, but I struggle constantly between the pull of the mundane and the creative. I do not have a clutter free house. I have piles of books and magazines at my bedside or on the floor. Clean and folded laundry sometimes wait for days before I put them away. It doesn’t bother me. I do clean but I don’t do tidy often enough to join the ranks of the magazine worthy homes. I’m organized but not immaculate. Enter the dandelions.
Are the weeds an excuse to opt out of living? Do they give me a reason not to write a blog post or to call a friend or read a book or volunteer in the community? Do we use these not important and not urgent tasks to crowd out the more meaningful? I know what this looked like at work. I had to answer my emails and make phone calls, and I had to attend endless meetings even though very little got done and not many people know how to run a productive meeting. I struggled with this in the first weeks of my retirement life. Here I am after ten weeks learning to love not being busy and not accomplishing a lot.
Can life be reduced to a pile of dandelions?
In life weeds exist. But I have a choice. I can live with them or I can attempt to remove them. I am not a good or bad person for making either decision. As I am digging up the weeds I am aware that my back and my knees ache. Sometimes I stay out too long and in the intensity of the endlessness of dandelions I convince myself that I have to finish the job. Finishing means more hours and more aching. I should learn to accept my limits, to do my best, and to be compassionate with myself for what I am able to do rather than beating myself up for coming in and leaving the job incomplete. The dogs need their dinner, I need to get out of the sun, and the dandelions will still be there tomorrow, taunting me to conquer them.
I didn’t pull up any weeds today. I took the day off. The world won’t end if I leave some dandelions. I’m going to consult with a yard service to see if they can help me with the weeds and free up more time for other activities. I know now that finishing this task will not make me happy, because the job will never ever ever be finished. There will always be weeds. The dandelions will win this war and I have to let them. My task is to learn how to find balance in my life with the weeds and the laundry and the other mundane tasks, to accomplish them because they are necessary, but not important.