Garden – adverbs, adjectives and other qualifiers

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Around here we’re talking spring and that means priorities. I mean prioritizing the garden

I am apparently not the only one who feel an almost overwhelming desire to be outside in the garden come end of winter. Seemingly important things fall by the wayside in the rush to get things done for the new season. Some feel a sense of peace at this point, I have never felt that in the garden, I must admit. My reward is a sort of exhilarated rightness, like a boss jubilant that your work has done the company proud

Another observation is that I can get downright irritated at what seem to be small issues. Like not having a seedling house fit for purpose. I was upset at several of my seedlings dying when the wind ravaged the existing improvised housing areas (what flapping plastic will do to tomato seedlings cannot be borne or described!). It’s not even so much not having the seedling house but not having the materials to make one at a time of the evening when no shop is open anyway. Grrr!

The other thing I found is that I can be very intolerant once fully converted to an idea. The current idea is that if you only have a small garden then make it productive! I walk on the street looking at gardens, and I do so in a state of mild irritated boil-over (it’s ok, I have low blood pressure!) at how many ornamentals that are not even ornamental are gathered on places where a fruit tree or bush would at least soothe the above-mentioned growling beast in me I find myself nodding in approval when I see the almost ubiquitous here lemon, grapefruit or feijoa bush, as if it were any of my business, really!

Does that sound like I really should get over myself already and maybe not get so irritated with things that are at best out of my control and at worst uncontrollable?

You can blame it on my abundance mentality, fostered by the course I am currently completing. Grow a lot of food that is fit for divinity, is the motto. That still sounds mildly OTT even when considering external divinity, let alone when you are encouraged to nurture the sacred part of yourself…

Which only gets me more irritated… yes, truly! Have we really become so entrenched in the systems, so defeatist, so relativistic (is there even such a word in the vocabulary?) that we take our lives for granted, that we consider that inner spark our due, or worse, that we think it is nothing special?

Are there really so many of us that we cynically consider ourselves just replaceable cogs in the big wheel, that our lives and deaths will be utterly useless, eminently forgettable and no big deal to begin with? Do we truly not feel part of history?

Gardens are dangerous, especially in spring…

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Timing

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It will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me that control is very dear to me. Control of one’s passions, control of one’s words, and actions, and really, pretty much everything else that can be controlled. As an aside, I find it beyond bewildering being upset at things not under our control. I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, take a detached view of the world, I fight and fight hard for the things I believe can be influenced, I just don’t see much point in fighting the weather, so to speak (now, influencing said weather is another matter entirely and I am not opposed to doing so).

The thing with control though is that much of it depends on time, and even more of it depends on timing, so that’s what I will focus on today. Time is necessary to learn control, to learn what can be controlled, to practice gaining and keeping and relinquishing control when one needs to. Serenity prayer, anyone? 🙂

Timing is more difficult. Most of us, certain in our own mortality, still manage to plan (i.e. to assume that we will have enough time to get where we want to). And when it comes to ourselves, in most cases, in this part of the world called the first, we have that time. We buy it with medicine, and education, and relationships.

But timing does not depend only on us. It is not only ourselves that need to be taken into account, nor just our wishes, nor indeed our actions alone. Timing includes someone else’s time, and sometimes the time of the age we live in. It’s what we mean when we say “life (or s**t) happens”.

A financial crisis, a war, an illness… many things can crumble plans, and the control these plans imply. We are often too isolated, we believe ourselves too small to influence these big things. But they are not the weather. We should fight, and fight hard, to influence them, human or not as they are. And we do, with medicine, and education, and relationships.

We are not all teachers. We are not all doctors or scientists or in charge of financial institutions. But we can all have relationships. And if timing can come into its own, it is on the relationships that we need to focus our individual efforts. And by timing I mean making choices. Simple ones, like not saying the bad words we want to say. More difficult ones, like standing our ground when we could just go with the flow. And difficult ones, like acting on the values we hold dear rather than the things we believe in.

I have discussed my view of control in another article on this blog. See, control is not just reining in, a force that is restrictive of freedom.Control can be passive and neutral, negative, or positive in that it allows action. Sometimes going through life (or the s**t described above) is control enough for powering a small country. Sometimes life seems out of control, depending on which tooth of the tiger sinks into which sensitive piece of our flesh. Our abused children, our bullied youth, our neglected elders, the sick and the maimed, have enough on their hands just to make it through to another sunrise.

But if we are well, and whole, and reasonably functional… what is then our excuse?

Luck

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The fun part is how new this word is 🙂 Just the word though, the concept and controversy regarding luck is millennia old.

And now for the analysis, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought it up 🙂

I am lucky. Very, outrageously lucky! It always appears to me that I do not control this luck, that it is somehow outside of me despite it happening to me. There is a good measure of self-fulfilling prophecy in there. I am by nature an optimist and my natural state of mind is happy. So it stands to reason (and to rationalists 😛 ) that I should feel lucky and thus influence my actual life in that direction. That’s fine, I don’t actually have a problem with this kind of self-fulfilling prophecies. And I recognize them when my intentional actions are actually part of whatever is happening in my life. Like choosing a pathway, listening to my intuition, stumbling over the right approach with a person based on many years of experience.

Where I actually talk about luck is where my actions, while intentional in the context I made them, have far-reaching consequences that no amount of intuition would have been able to predict. Like when I took my husband’s car one day and had an accident. My husband’s car escaped unscathed, but the accident would have seriously damaged my car… which said husband was taking to the mechanic, who lifted it and discovered two bald tyres.. I don’t want to know what would have happened had those tyres exploded on the big drive we had planned for the weekend… yes, it had been my suggestion to take my car to the mechanic in preparation for the big drive, but I couldn’t have predicted the accident, now could I?

So I am lucky. I have been lucky all my life. It really doesn’t mean that I win the lottery (small prizes, yes, when I can be bothered to play – rarely. That is chance, not luck as I describe it. It also doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen to me. They do, and the effects are no more and certainly no less than for anyone to whom bad things happen – that would be everyone. Some of my personality traits (optimism, happiness, also an ability to see the good in situations) make it easier for me to deal with the bad stuff. But I don’t think that has much to do with the fact that I have become accustomed to hearing at least once a week from various people about how lucky I am. I have to pay attention. That is another factor, I notice how lucky I am, I feel it and I therefore act in possibly a more confident way which in turn opens more doors and makes me aware of more opportunities. But I am no more likely than others to get that job I have been looking for. Again, that has nothing to do with the luck I am describing.

Another thing is that feeling that luck comes from outside of my control, actually from outside of me. Like a gift. So I do no subscribe to the “don’t say you’re lucky or your luck will disappear” theory. On the contrary, I often acknowledge my luck. There is maybe a bit of superstitition in there, a reversal of that theory I described above: if I don’t acknowledge my luck it will disappear. I like to think that I am courteous though, so I acknowledge gifts 🙂

Fun analysis remains so if it’s brief. I am not complaining or try to understand my luck – no interest or benefit for me. I am intersted in the limitations (ah, that lotto ticket!) and grateful for the gift. I am also aware that I need to share it with others. Perhaps one gloomy day when things go wrong from the beginning, when you get discouraged and upset at “meaningful coincidences” (Jung’s definition of “luck”) that don’t coincide, I could come and tell you that things are going to get a heck of a lot better… and, knowing me, I will be right!

PS. Little bad things, when they do happen, always come in threes… I could have a bit of fun with that analysis, eh? 🙂

Plan

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It’s a new word, as these things are measured, although none of us was alive when it started to be used. 🙂

Again, being in a hurry to live, I will ignore the etymology for the time being, and that is difficult as it can mean so many things and link to so many concepts I have talked about already, like intent, motivation, practicality.

But for today, I will limit myself to a few observations on plans.

I was talking to a friend about being muddled, as it sometimes happen when you don’t have a plan of action. Being on the impulsive side, I immediately started to make the connections with spontaneity, on which there is already a blog article. But something didn’t sit right with that comparison. It is true that being spontaneous implies no plan, but it certainly doesn’t imply being muddled. Impulses are by nature quite clear, or so they appear to me. I don’t mean you have to give in to them, but it is clear what those impulses would have you do and the satisfaction that follows is linked to how well you have executed the clear instructions 🙂

But if neither spontaneity nor being muddled imply a plan of action, is there a connection? I tend to think there isn’t. Being muddled means you can’t be really spontaneous, just caught in whatever life has decided to throw at you; in short, it means no control. Spontaneity links to making a decision without an obvious trigger, being muddled means that you react to a very obvious trigger.

So having a plan for the routines of life means that your brain can afford to be spontaneous when it comes to the opportunities of life. It also helps with those impulses by allowing you to remain in control. So once all the bills are paid and the weekend is upon you, you could say “let’s go travel” and you won’t come back to disaster. You steer the boat, not let it blow this way and that way at the mercy of circumstances.

Some plans depend on the actions of others, or on enough time passing, or even on opportunities presenting themselves. So having a plan is also very good exercise for patience (or stubborness 😛 ).

There is one more issue I need to plan for now. You see, once I develop a habit I am obviously reluctant to give it up. So before I acquire it I need to think very carefully if the habit will be beneficial in the long term or is just a short-term release/coping mechanism. It isn’t perfect, but you can add a coda to the action that will become a habit which tells the brain to regard said action as temporary rather than permanent. For example, I am in the habit of using same coloured pegs when I hang out the washing. The mild discomfort I feel when I break this habit isn’t really worth mentioning. The habit also doesn’t impact greatly on my life, maybe a minute more spent doing it this way. But having several habits like this might mean the difference between being content with life and being hemmed in by it. I know which one I’d choose, so I will plan my habits too 🙂

Moderation

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I am a creature of extremes, so my husband might feel rather smug right now as he is the one who usually sings the praises of moderation.

And yet, those extremes of mine I can and will reach on a regular basis have always led to…well, moderation, really!. You see, I would swing to one extreme and then my entire being (physical one included) would go to battle and resume control as soon as possible. It was a matter of seconds, as I do not hold grudges. But that re-instation of control did not happen before I put my foot in my mouth, of course 🙂

And isn’t that an interesting thing, that putting one’s foot in one’s mouth is not a mean thing, just a tad too honest for the circumstances. I take that as a sign of hope: if our first call when we’re angry, upset or irritated is to be honest, not mean, then there is hope indeed for humanity in general.

To digress even further, if someone is mean in those first few seconds there is usually a world of pain behind so, when we consider retaliation, we might want to think about that and try to do something about it.

Right, I digressed a lot, so let’s get back to moderation.

At first, there doesn’t seem to be much mystery about this word, it is about the middle way, perched between the extremes like a skilled acrobat between a fire wall and an icy pool. Whichever way he falls there’s going to be a price extracted. But wait, is that the original meaning of the word? Well, they are related, in the way a cause is related to the result. You see, the original meaning of the word is to control. Said acrobat balances in moderation because of learnt control.

Whether you learn it by expectation or under duress, control has had a bad rep lately. It’s fallen out of fashion, so to speak (icy pool or fire wall?). And yet without it life would get scary.

Control not only protects us from our perceived view on anarchy (reading the Wiki entry on anarchy, Kant may be on to a good thing, but on the other hand I do love the idea of kibbutz), it works for good things as well.

A child singing is sweet – for its family and in small measures. 🙂 A bit of voice training (control) though and even strangers may be impressed when the sweetness is released in rhythmic beauty.

Can you get to extremes with control? I reckon! 😛

So we’ll go with the contested quote: “everything in moderation, including moderation”. But… this doesn’t work with sedentarism or healthy foods, as someone else said at https://maketheworldworkbetter.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/the-science-behind-everything-in-moderation/

What to do, what to do? 🙂

Days

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I can loll, cruise and procrastinate with the best of them. Nothing like deciding to banish all responsibility, plop yourself on the couch with a good book and just paddle into the kitchen when you want a snack, a cup of tea or a box of chocolates. Then in the evening, order some pizza/Chinese/Indian etc., open a bottle of wine and watch a movie, listen to music or check your Facebook account, just because. At the end of the day you will probably feel rested. I have this theory that it’s because we don’t pay attention to our bodies and the environment as the industrial revolution is only slowly giving way to more humane schedules. Rain, hail, shine or storm, we go to work if it’s a work day and we are that way employed by ourselves or, more often, by others. Does anyone else think it’s just slightly silly to do so? I imagine the birds sheltering in their nest during a storm look very puzzled at the soaked human beings rushing towards their various places of money earning, as if they couldn’t wait for a better day.

But I digress 🙂

So here we are, refreshed after a day of blobbing, but feeling rather guilty, some of us anyway. Because we’re adults, and responsibility is our middle name, whereever we are in the civilized world.

Then there’s the other sort of day. When we have plans but for some reason or another the Universe itself is conspiring against us. The beautiful day it has been forecast turns to drizzle that puts an end to clothes drying so your house starts looking like an obstacle course with clothes horses taking up precious, scarce space. The previously healthy toddler starts throwing up and looking miserable when you are trying to get the housework done. The usual discussion at the end of the day with your special people turns to an argument involving killer eye contact and slaming of innocent doors.

I tend to smile because the Universe enjoys sending these things in threes, so I kinda know there’s no point in fighting too much, I just try to ensure I don’t kill anyone accidentally. This has worked so far! 🙂

And then we have those days! When I have a plan. Everyone who needs to be involved is there more or less voluntarily. Everything goes smoothly, things get accomplished and are visible to the naked eyes of others (show-off that I am! 😛 ). The Universe sends a kind glance and the world is wonderful. A productive day in an expected sort of way, with tiny, mundane surprises that happen anyway when people work together because they want to. Synergy, you might call it 🙂

Evening comes, and the last experiment turns out beautifully. Tired and happy, I am off to bed.

To fantasize (in the human way) of a day when I don’t have a plan, but beautiful special people happen to do amazing things and I get lost in a maze of brightness, and love, and spontaneous happiness I am at a loss for words to explain.

Discontent? No, just a desire for what we know ourselves to be capable of, that happens but rarely, due to responsibilities, and plans, and routines. There is so much potential for happiness in each of us… and so much fear that this means breaking the dams of our control…

Possession

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You know that feeling of shock you get when someone describes you by a word you would never have associated with yourself? Something like “You look so happy” when you know you are anything but, or “you have been so helpful” when all you tried was to serve yourself.

For me the shock has come because of possession. I consider myself one of the most possessive people I know. So being described as “giving” has put me in the ironic position of justifying a weakness. Not a sin – for me that is pride – totally different subject.

If you also take into account (and I do!) that I don’t know what jealousy is, being possessive is an even bigger headache. So let’s analyze a bit.

I can give provided one of two things happen: one, I retain the object as such (loaning it to others for the duration) – like giving them a copy of a book I have read, enjoyed and considered appropriate; advice is another such object, so is expertise. Two, by giving I get even more in return – a present, for example, or the end of an irritation.

I can give even if those two things cannot happen, compelled by love – that is a gift, therefore wasn’t mine to begin with. Haven’t you been in love, and found the absolutely perfect gift? Even if you paid for it, did you ever consider it yours? Or were you just a conduit, helping the rightful owner take possession?

But then we have to define possession: have, own, control. Both in object and in spirit. Therefore it is by default something that is separate from you. Not only the object/spirit you possess, but the actual possession (An act? A state? A fact?). A more schizoid explanation of the separation of body, mind, spirit etc. I do not know! Think about it… you control yourself, don’t you? So you, yourself and the control exerted are three separate entities. Mad, innit?

But that separateness leads to questions like “what do you have? What do you control? And mind you, how do you do that?”

The clothes on my back, the salary I draw, the bed I sleep in… changeable. Childhood mementoes – more difficult to give. Ourselves or the people around us – let’s not joke about it!

So the giving is not so much of an object, although they are a start – and the easiest.

It is in the relationships where we have so much trouble giving. Managing expectations, so to speak.

I consider the people I love to be entitled to what I have to give, objects, advice, time, suppport etc. It is therefore my privilege to give so that everything should be normal. Note, it is not a prerogative. Nor can I lose. That object, the perfect gift, I cannot give it to anyone else. How could I say “I love you” if I am not prepared to share the time and the memories? We only ever should count at the end of a relationship.

Fingers crossed, it would have been worth it!