This weekend the mess in my overgrown little backyard was finally more than I could tolerate.
As someone who’s woefully lacking in the anal-retentive gene, I’ve learned that when I get a hankering to clean up, it’s best to strike while the iron is hot. So although it wasn’t on my schedule for the weekend, I spent an hour or so weeding, sweeping and clipping.
I must admit I always feel a little guilty about pulling the “volunteers” in my garden. Don’t they have just as much of a right to grow and thrive as the plants that had the blind luck to end up where I wanted them? It feels like I’m playing God, a role I find profoundly discomfiting.
But the fact is, if I want my garden to flourish, I need to cultivate the plants I do want, and not let the plants I don’t want suck up all the resources and nourishment.
The Friendship Garden
In the same way, I need to cultivate the relationships I want in my life, and weed out the ones that are sucking up resources.
My friend Julie refers to this as “weeding your friendship garden.”
It’s a task that’s just a tad more fraught then pulling volunteers in my backyard.
As it happens, my backyard was the setting for the start of a relationship that recently ended. When my ex was courting me, before I made the jump from “date” to “girlfriend,” the date that really won me over was when he drove the hour to my place and spent the afternoon helping me clean up my yard.
How could I not be won over? He helped me in a big way with an area of challenge for me, and I got to see how we worked as a team.
Which was remarkably well, I must say. Best partner I ever had.
Until the end, when he wounded me terribly.
And although I understood what made him behave the way he did, and I even forgive him for it, I realized that his behavior was an indication that he was not someone who was capable of taking my well-being into consideration. And although it was incredibly painful, I realized that, for my own well-being, I needed to weed him from my friendship garden.
In the past few years I’ve weeded a couple of other relationships from my friendship garden. Each time it was difficult. It was painful. It was definitely a loss.
But it was a loss that had to happen in the service of a larger gain, in order for my internal garden to flourish.
Mourning the Loss/Gratitude for the Gifts
Yesterday, as I cleaned up my yard, I was reminded of some of the really lovely things about my ex, and the wonderful gifts he brought into my life.
A small example: my garden tools, which, before my ex’s arrival in my life, had been piled in a most disorderly fashion, now hang in neat rows on my side fence, thanks to his efforts.
As I swept and clipped, my lips curved into a bittersweet smile and my thoughts were filled with gratitude to this person whose most recent interaction with me was one of the most hurtful I’ve ever experienced.
Life is complex.
People are complex.
The relationships I’ve weeded from my friendship garden each brought me wonderful gifts. I feel their loss, and I truly miss the good things that these complex relationships gave me.
Sometimes the weeds in the garden are incredibly beautiful, but they’re still weeds.