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Don't Water The Weeds

July 17, 2014 by ·

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

-Marcel Proust

I took one look at my garden this morning and gasped. A massacre had taken place. My dainty, red, yellow, purple and orange Portulaca plants were all beheaded, their roots exposed, strewn about in clumps. The holes that were their homes, just yesterday, gaped up at me, empty and dry. All color in their designated area was gone, except brown.

Between the deer who feast on my flowers at night and the weeds determined to crowd out the rest, it’s a wonder I return to my garden at all.  As I stood there, anger rising, I remembered a question I’d been asked at a workshop I’d recently held on using our individual strengths to fuel global happiness. “Isn’t it more effective to work on our weaknesses?”

garden2The weaknesses staring me right in the face were nearly dead flowers and rampant crab grass. But if I walked across the street and viewed my garden from my neighbor’s porch, I would see century old Maple trees, abundant Roses, Poppies, Black-eyed Susans, Balloon flowers, Sedum, Vinca vines, Hostas, rocks, and countless other beauties of varying sizes, textures and hues.  The scene would represent hours spent raking leaves, preparing soil, pruning branches, cutting for bouquets, chatting with passersby, and simply gazing, smiling, and savoring the seasons, year after year.

“Most of us already do focus on our weaknesses,” I had answered the participant.  “The question is to what extent and how we work on them—what tools we apply and what energy we bring to the challenges.” The reason my garden is 90% fine and lovely is that I focus on my love of color and spontaneity, being outdoors, marveling at the miracle of a seed turning into a stem and then bursting into some astounding shape and scent, year after year. (Do these plants focus on weaknesses? It seems that many know how to thrive in spite of their challenges.)

So often, in my work coaching others to focus on strengths, I am challenged with the question of weaknesses and the charges of personal ‘happiness’ work being naïve, fluffy, self-serving in a time we need serious change, activism, and service for the greater good.  What I know is that if all I did was battle my weeds and natural predators, I’d likely end up like the Portulaca — strewn about, weak, in need of care.  Focusing on my Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Curiosity, Gratitude, Love of Learning and other strengths feeds my soul far beyond measure. This sustenance positively impacts on my world – far beyond my garden.  Knowing that I need to feed my strengths in order to be happy, I make time to paint, get to yoga class, take long walks. As a result, I feel energized and more confident for my GNH efforts SongwritingWith:Soldiers work, my Middle School strengths project, my coaching… and most importantly, I am much more of me with those I love.

So now, I return to my garden – merrily whistling and occasionally cursing –keenly aware of the happy choice I am making to dig in and work toward beauty.

-Mary Judd

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