In my backyard sits a lovely south-facing vegetable garden plot behind our garage, surrounded by a makeshift fence to keep the chickens out. It’s a fairly good size, maybe 10 X 10. Last summer, on account of having had shoulder surgery in early July, I wisely decided it would be too much work to keep a garden going while one-armed and healing, so I left it untended. After much thought, I’ve made another good decision about this year’s growing season, although for entirely different reasons: Nope, I’m not gardening this year either!
Perhaps you are already aware, but there are only so many hours in the day. It’s true! And while there are a great many things that are interesting and wonderful and fun to do, we have to choose wisely in regards to where and how to best spend our time, in order to care well for ourselves and not over do it. While I enjoy seeing things grow and being able to eat right from my own garden I don’t enjoy watering everyday or picking weeds or the upkeep that goes along with it, so I’ve made the conscious decision not to plant seeds this year. With the possibility of renovating our kitchen, coupled with traveling out of state in July and the myriad of other things I invest my time into, it seems a good choice.
I felt it worth while to write about this because it’s something many of us are faced with and yet often don’t quite delve into deeply enough – the fact that we make choices regarding what we prioritize in our lives. We have a tendency to think our lives are out of our immediate control, rather than understanding that, on the deepest possible level, we have created the life we’re living. Our lives do not just happen. They do not unfold without our influence. If we’re living an affluent lifestyle we are afforded the luxury of choice. We fall too easily into the trap of excuses of how we’re too busy for this and too tired and worn out for that or how it’s someone else’s fault we’re not doing something, when the truth is we are simply prioritizing other things to fill our time – and that’s OK! We can only do so much. I could say, “Oh, well, I just don’t have time for a garden this year, which is a shame, but, what can you do?!” But that wouldn’t be accurate – I would make the time to garden if it were something I really loved doing. The reality is that I am choosing how to best spend my time. There’s a difference in the motivation and energy involved, which creates a positive impact on my quality of life. It’s the difference between: Woe is me, I can’t have a garden, verses: I’m going to spend my time working on my house, visiting family, and nourishing my sangha!
I recently finished re-reading a great book entitled The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (author of Tuesdays with Morrie). The main character in the book dies and proceeds to meet five people in heaven, each connected to his life in some way with a lesson to offer him, so that he may better understand and appreciate the life he had led. The second person he met shared this lesson with him:
“Sacrifice. You made one. I made one. We all make them. But you were angry over yours. You kept thinking about what you lost. You didn’t get it. Sacrifice is part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to. Little sacrifices. Big sacrifices. A mother works hard so her son can go to school. A daughter moves home to take care of her sick father. A man goes to war…Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. You’re just passing it on to someone else.”
The way in which we approach things matters – it matters a great deal. In many ways it will determine what the outcome will be.