I Can’t?

How many times a day do you say “I Can’t”?

I’ve never thought of myself as a gardener or even someone who liked gardening. In fact, I could barely commit to having live plants in my home for fear of the commitment. All that watering, tending, deciding the right of amount of sunlight was too much for me. I felt guilty when I forgot to water, add plant food, or more soil. I opted for dried flower arrangements which were self-sufficient and didn’t need me to “talk to them”. The trouble was the dried arrangements were just that, dried out and dust collectors.

Much of this angst over “gardening” stemmed from the fact that as a kid I was tasked with watering the flowers, weeding, and eventually mowing the lawn once my brothers were older. My mother and I even battled over how long I watered the flowers, “They’re thirsty!” my mother would say, “Give them a good drink of water!” and the old “How would you feel after being in the hot sun all day?” Just a little guilt thrown in did the trick. I literally drowned those flowers.

I began the story of I Can’t

Over the years I lived mostly in condominiums so I never had to bother with gardening. I perpetuated the belief that it wasn’t something I was capable of. It seemed so complicated; what and where to plant, when to plant, fertilizer, weeds, mulch, edging, watering. Let alone the fact that I had experimented with a few types of house plants and they just seemed to fade away from neglect. I don’t know, maybe I was taking out the years of frustration as a kid of having to tend to the flowers and unintentionally took it out on the plants as an adult. I do know that I began to tell myself “I Can’t do this” and never challenged this belief.

Some years back I bought my father’s home and agreed that he would have life use of it. He had a wonderful caretaker who took great pleasure in tending the gardens. She and my Dad would go for neighborhood walks (he on his electric scooter). She would never admit it but we think she used to take little snippets of the neighbors plants because before you knew it there would be something totally new sprouting and resembling something from the neighbor’s. She had this gift of taking a small clipping and nurturing it until it had roots and could be planted. I was always in awe of the magic she created. However I had a nagging voice that whispered, “you are never going to be able to take care of these gardens.”

Something started to take root

When my father passed away it was winter. I knew the yard would need some attention but I figured I would pay someone to take care of it. The story of “I Can’t” crept in.  As fate would have it, I needed a tree taken down and figured while the tree guys were here it was best to clear the overgrown bushes close to the house. I told myself this was the extent of what I could afford this year. However once those bushes were removed you could see the pachysandra plants along the side of the house, slowly inching themselves around to the front and even toward my neighbor’s property. When I asked about how to remove them, people told me, “good luck those are impossible to get rid of because of their root system, you should just leave them.”

I changed the story to I Can

I decided to get rid of those pesky pachysandras anyway. Over the course of a week I dug, pulled, yanked, chopped, and swore at the pachysandras. In fact, I declared war on those pachysandras. I even started to joke to folks about it as they walked by and watched me. “Yes it’s day 3 of Pam versus the Pachysandras!” I’d shout. I’d get a word of encouragement here and there. But mostly a nodding of the head as if to say, “give it up”.

Each day I would clear a little more. The roots went on forever having laid claim to this section of the yard. I didn’t give up although my arms and back were waving the white flag. By the end I had cleared the entire side of the house and then some. Each night I was sore, bitten by mosquitos, covered in dirt, and exhausted. Yet I couldn’t wait to get out there each day and see my progress.

At this point, the yard looked pretty barren with the bushes removed and just dirt beds left. Something seemed to happen as I looked at the beautifully tended yards of my neighbors. I started to ask myself “why can’t I (emphasis on the “I”) give the yard a little attention.”  I wanted to take this newfound confidence to the next level. I asked for help.

My sister in law came and pointed out plants versus weeds putting names to the “faces”. She explained how to dig up plants and move them to different spots around the yard. My brother showed me how to edge. I replanted some plants, pruned, edged flower beds, laid out the weed preventer covering, and spread 33 bags of mulch. It was a bit unnerving to be going through this transformation in front of the neighborhood. I felt somewhat exposed. But the neighbors went from skeptical observers to my own cheering section.

Transformation was possible

Then something happened. I stopped, stepped back, observed. I discovered I had gardens! Who knew it was possible! Mind you, I am no Master Gardner, but these gardens were mine and I was proud. Oh yes I prevailed over those pachysandras. But they taught me an important lesson about tenacity, patience, and belief in myself. I could have stuck with the status quo, never tried something I convinced myself I couldn’t do, and spent the money to have someone do the work. Instead I started small, built up my confidence, asked for help, learned something new, didn’t listen to the naysayers and persevered. It may seem like a small thing but when you accomplish something you’ve told yourself you can’t do…it’s amazing how empowering and rewarding that feeling is!

I’d like to share something from James Van Praagh. He will tell you how gardening is good for the soul. My soul certainly agrees! To read more click here.

Have you tried to do one thing that you’ve told yourself you can’t do? What was it and what was the outcome? Did you have an aha moment? What did you learn about yourself? Or what is that one thing that you’ve always wanted to try but for whatever reason you don’t. What’s holding you back? I’d love to hear about it!

With Courage,


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