How Have I Managed To Get So Many Things Backward?

I used to be one of those people who scoffed at those folks who spent time working on their lawns and piddled in their flower beds.

My neighbors must have nothing better to do with their time. I can recall making fun of them to my wife as I watched them from our window. I was an idiot then. I was too ignorant to understand the truth; I had many things backward. What exactly, should they have been doing with that free time, I never stopped to ask myself. Should they be working to make more money, perhaps? Something more “productive,” I’m sure I thought. At the time, I didn’t stop to wonder if maybe, they were enjoying the simplicity of just existing as they did their yardwork.

“Their grass is going to need mowing again in a week anyway,” as if that should be a reason not to give attention to a lawn,

If you are visualizing this scenario and your mental picture is of older, retired folks as the people I was scoffing at, you would be correct. They have the time to garden and work on their lawns, and although I made fun of them, isn’t what we all fantasize about is having more time? Again, I had it backward.

Around a year or so ago, I began to study Stoicism, Taoism, and other Eastern philosophies. The study of the significant Stoics, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus taught me how backward my thinking of“time” was.

I am a Christian by faith; however, I find it helpful to understand various philosophies and Stoicism interested me regarding their ideas on how to spend time as well as how to control negative thoughts.

I suppose I felt my aging neighbors who spent so much time on their knees in the garden were wasting their time when they could be doing something more “productive.” What I didn’t grasp then, was, why do we want to be more productive in the first place, unless ultimately that productivity leads to the free time later on?

Ultimately, what we desire is the “time” to be able to work in that garden, be it an actual garden, or a hobby. Maybe it’s not a garden at all; perhaps it’s playing chess, writing a book, studying, or perhaps learning how to build a kayak. My retired neighbors are achieved what we all seek, even if we do not know it yet, the ability to “do,” “exist,” and “be.”

No boss demands my neighbor mow her or his grass. No supervisor requires the height of one neighbor’s lawn to match the height of another neighbor’s yard. There’s no management team meeting inquiring why the hedges aren’t taller than they were the last fiscal quarter.

For some strange reason, this year, I began to want to spend more time outside, particularly on our screened backyard patio. It started with me having my breakfast on the terrace every day. My wife began to join me and said, “in all the years we’ve lived here, we’ve never spent this much time outside.”

Soon, we bought some more comfortable outdoor patio furniture and then, I did what I would have said a year ago was unthinkable, I planted a garden in our backyard.

I planted grapes, cantaloupe, green and jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, and raspberries. I hadn’t tended to a garden since I was a teen on our farm in Tennessee. Mine is not a large garden at all, just a single strip of plants, here are a few photos.

Those who can piddle with their petunias on a Tuesday afternoon have won, you see? They have accumulated enough of that invisible, expensive commodity called “time.” That product that we all wish we can somehow earn even if it’s already available to us if we delete the unnecessary and refocus our priorities.

I’ve begun to appreciate that time outside on my patio. I’m not rushing for anything. Instead, I’m allowing myself to exist and be in the moment. Possibly, that’s the secret that takes so many years for Western culture to understand. All the toil, the long hours, stress, and hard work, for what? Ultimately, isn’t it to be able to play in your garden of choice? You may think you must wait until you are retired. I’m not yet retired, but, I have retooled my thinking about how I spend my time. Ditch any time-sucker be it, scrolling social media, mindless television, soul-crushing relationships, I think you get the picture.

Find and tend to your garden.

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