Seed, Feed ‘n’ Weed: using stress to strengthen my spirit

In May, stress was winning I came close to giving up. Instead, I hit pause, and tried something new. And it worked.

My Keep It Super Simple plan evolved on the spot. Starting May 28, I pledged to complete a 30-day experiment on incorporating tiny actions and lifestyle changes that over time would help my body heal physically and rebuild mentally from years of accumulated stress. I was sliding into stage 3 of burnout, just two stages away from complete physical and mental meltdown. Would a few little things like an extra glass of water or listing a favourite song be able to counteract the toll a life of many drains and few recharges could take on body, mind, and spirit?

(If you aren’t familiar with my 30-day plan, my previous blog posts will fill you in. If you have been following my plan and progress, thank you! Your support has been a welcome addition to my process.)

Seeing as my challenge ended more than two weeks ago, with nary a peep on my blog about the results, it would appear as if this process didn’t work for me at all. I’m still not blogging regularly. I haven’t finished my book. I haven’t lost several inches or a dozen pounds from my well-padded frame. I can’t walk 10k, let alone run it. One by one, the list grows of the things in my life that have not improved or changed.

But you know what? KISS did work for me. The fact that I am still here, out of bed and unmedicated, is the most obvious proof. The fact that the list of negatives now wash through and away rather than stagnating and drowning me is Exhibit 2. The extra water, vitamins, exercise and rest certainly gave my body some things it desperately needed. The real power, however, comes from the mindfulness – the realization in the throes of panic or the grip of restlessness that I can do something to help myself, not only for the moment but for the long term. I had to face the fact that not only was I not getting as much fresh air or down time as I should have been, but that I was reacting to everything out of fear. I was afraid to be good to myself lest that made me selfish or unfeeling toward others. I was afraid to speak lest I be challenged for my opinions and choices, which could well be wrong. I was afraid to see myself as a person with the privilege of a brain and talent and spirit lest I be held accountable for the responsibility of sharing those gifts with the world. As a result, I was forcing myself to stay awake beyond sleepiness, ignoring my thirst, and allowing self-doubt to erase every bit of joy from any decision I made or action I took.

To be clear, I am still afraid. I still slip back into the habits that leave me drained and exhausted. But now, I have a means to bounce back. KISS is no longer an experiment or a 30-days-and-you’re-done treatment, it is a part of my life.¬†It is a work in progress, as am I.

Now, as a sidebar, I have never been much of a gardener. I have killed everything listed as hardy, low-maintenance, and trouble-free. Even dandelions have died in my presence. However, I ¬†secretly admired those lucky folks who could blend home and horticulture. A tiny kitchen garden, window boxes, beds of perennials lining a walkway – all look so inviting and calming. So during the past few years, I have been trying to inject some green into my black thumb and slowly, there have been results. I do have a substantial perennial collection now, lining my walkway and foundation, every plant a testament to survival of the fittest. I also have container gardens on my front and back decks. Now, whether it is our hot sunny summer so far, or the fact that I have been watering them faithfully twice a day since I planted them, my containers have flourished beyond imagination. Giant cucumber vines, abundant tomato blossoms, blooming flowers, thriving garden greens … all of them are spilling out of containers and delighting the senses. And I did that. I planted the seeds, covered them in soil, watered them, watched over them, plucked any errant growth that could overtake them, and letthem do their thing. They are yielding an eclectic path of beauty.

I am doing the same now with my feelings. I feel the stab of a seed in my gut – fear, panic, self-doubt, excitement, pride, anger, whatever it is. I hold it close, cover it with my presence, nurture it with my energy. Over time, I have an insight, or a renewed interest, or a desire to do something, or the innate knowledge to choose where I need to be and what I need to do. I take a breath, drink some water, pluck the distractions and negative thoughts, and get it done. Repeat as needed.

I love my garden, and it is what it is. My radishes will never be strawberries. My geraniums will never be roses. In the same way, I will never be one to adhere to a strict schedule. I cannot blog daily. I cannot do things by rote. I can, however, find a balance between conformity and chaos. I can connect the outcomes I seek with the discipline needed to attain them.

So maybe, just maybe, I can do this writing thing after all.

Thanks for your patience, and for listening.

We’ll talk again soon.