In a cynical moment while posting on facebook (and yes, even the author of a self help book can have a bloody snark attack on occasion) I wrote that I couldn’t decide what was more exciting – writing or pulling weeds. My niece, Lisa, quickly responded that I should write. I began a new blog article, “The Cross-eyed Optimist.” Ironically, I can’t find it. Hopefully it will turn up in my files in the future.
However, my friend and former Westwood High School classmate, Dick Luebke, was interested in the possible excitement surrounding pulling weeds. With the exception of my screenplays, I rarely write fiction. So now, because I like Dick and he has called me on my facebook challenge, I feel compelled to come up with something good to say about pulling weeds.
However, as odd as it may sound, I have a few insights on the subject.
When I was a kid, one of the few tasks my mother was willing to pay us for was to pull weeds. Rosebushes lined the entire front row of our front lawn and weeds would grow in between the thorny plants. We lived in a small, older home, but we had a big yard. Lots of roses, lots of weeds. However, the reward for accomplishing this weed-pulling project was $1. At the time my allowance was 25 cents a week, so a buck would be a virtual windfall.
I tugged at a few of the weeds and thought I was making good headway. But when my mom came out to inspect, she told me I couldn’t just pluck the weeds, I had to pull the stringy devils out by the roots. Between the cement like dirt, thorny rose bushes, the magnitude of the project on a hyper active kid, and now the more difficult stipulation of pulling the offending plants out by the roots, I felt overwhelmed. I gave up part way through the job. All I had to show for my efforts were sore hands, scratched arms and not one red cent.
Later, when my spouse and I owned homes of our own, I went back to the task of ridding the yard of milk weed and wild mustard.. There were times when it was relaxing to sit next to the earth, pull a weed (sometimes by the roots, sometimes not) and enjoy a nice sunny day. My favorite yard was the one surrounding our home on Brown Road in Mesa, AZ.
The lot was a little under ½ acre. The home was built in 1945 and it reminded me of my childhood home only a mile away. The property had been part of a farm years ago. Sometimes as I would pull weeds (or mow the lawn) I would imagine what it was like to plow the fields and live off the land. Not that I ever wanted to do this, but it was fun to imagine.
More realistically, yard work was a respite from my duties as a young mother, college student, wife and waitress. There were few expectations in my landscaping adventure. I didn’t need to study or pass a test, take orders from customers and hope they left a tip, or tend to the needs of crying babies or change stinky diapers (although an occasional fecal present from a visiting dog might appear and require disposal.)
It was just me, a pair of gardening gloves and the earth.
However, after we sold our home on Brown Road, we transitioned away from big lawns and opted for desert landscaping and minimal yard work. An errant weed would pop up on occasion, but for the most part the weeds and I distanced ourselves from one another.
Decades later I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Even more amazing than the amount of rain that falls is the number of weeds that grow. In Arizona I was careful in my weed-pulling duties as I did not want to pluck out a wildflower by mistake. After we moved north, and on a rare hour when it wasn’t raining, I would inspect the multitude of greenery in the front, back and side yards. Were these green leafy creatures friend or foe? By the time I figured it out, the weeds were giants. Heck, Jack could forget about the beanstalk and come to our place and use the weeds as a stairway to heaven.
The good news is the ground up here is soft and the weeds pull out easily (even the roots.) As I garden my thoughts simplify and my mind becomes more focused. I enjoy the smell of the earth, the brilliance of the different hues of green of the various plant life, the sound of the birds chirping and I allow myself a simple smile at the occasional spotting of a lady bug or worm.
When I finish with the task at hand, I can survey my handiwork and take pride in the absence of the obnoxious weed devils that are choking the life out of our other plants, flowers and trees.
I also discovered there is a strong correlation between pulling weeds and controlling negativity (the theme of our book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.) Imagine your grouchy thoughts, speech and actions are like weeds. At first the thorny plants seems harmless so you do not take any action against them. Unfortunately, if left unchecked the weeds spread, choke off the life force of other more useful plants, and soon become the dominating force in your garden (or mind.)
Like weeding a garden, identifying negativity, pulling it out from its proverbial roots and replacing the offenders with more empowering thoughts, speech and actions is a powerful step in creating a happier life. It IS hard work, but so worth the effort.
I just came in from pulling weeds from the side yard. I may have disappointed my fried, Dick. It isn’t a thrilling experience to pull weeds. I felt a sense of pride and satisfaction at the work I accomplished today. And, of course, I wrote this little story. That wasn’t exactly a trip on the exhilaration train either.
However, after I post this, I’m in hopes that folks will read it. And maybe, just maybe, someone will find the article useful and it will give them a little nudge toward cultivating a happier mindset and life. If so, THAT is as exciting as it gets.
Sally Marks is the president of Marks Public Relations and the co-author of the self-help book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. Visit www.EraseNegativity.com for more information.