It’s Friday and I’ve taken the day off from work to prepare for a large dinner party. While my mother (my Julia Child role model) would have prepped her dishes three days in advance, I’m not a big fan of cooking; I’ve left the process of feeding 20 people to this single day. I won’t have time for anything except my to-do list. Definitely no time to work in the garden.
And yet, it’s in our courtyard garden, glowing with winter sun, that I find myself. Terra cotta bricks lead from the front yard to a wrought iron gate, through a Spanish archway into the courtyard and up to the front door. Typical south Florida foliage fringes the long and narrow space. My eyes sweep over green palm fronds and the red hues of a croton bush to land on an unruly fern springing from the fork between two palms. The ferny explosion makes the garden look cluttered and overgrown. I locate a pair of shears in the garage and get to work.
My plan, at first, is merely to cut back the offending fern. But when I start hacking away, another plan emerges. It begins with carefully shaping the plant, considering what it looks like in terms of its surroundings and attempting to trim it in a way that makes it belong. The more I prune, however, the more seems to need to be cut away. Beneath the outer greenness, I find layers of brown and drying branches. I keep cutting until I realize that what I’m really doing is razing the plant to the ground, which has positive outcomes. It reveals a beautiful space between the conjoined palm trees, like two hands cupping the air … a night jasmine plant whose one long branch reaches out from beneath the growth like a tentacle searching for food … and at the very base of the bush’s body: a hidden and smothered sprinkler head.
Emboldened by these successes, I redouble my efforts. An hour later I have uprooted and removed a dead and brittle bush, rearranged several potted plants, and raked and bagged debris. The garden has a new sensation of fresh and open space. More than its new look, the garden has an opportunity for a lot of new growth. Which has got me thinking…
Demands from the external world, internal expectations, and repetitive self-imposed and other limiting boundaries can create a sense of inner overgrowth that hides our own gifts and impedes transformation. Creating new growth in ourselves can happen as simply as it does in a garden:
1. Pruning. Forward motion evolves from cutting out experiences, people, and objectives as often as from adding them. Identifying and removing what or who seems intrusive, overgrown, no longer meaningful, or dead opens up space(s) to be filled with new people, experiences, and desires—or left empty for us to grow into.
2. Shaping. Creating who we want to be and how we want to show up in the world manifests from a deliberate process of choices and actions. Paying heightened attention to what we choose and how we behave (rather than living in default mode) brings growth when it guides us to take consistent actions that create meaningful experiences.
3. Utilizing. Secrets to our deeper selves are revealed when we remove the extraneous debris of a life or a soul. Discovering what we can do with these new facets of self expands who we are in multiple directions in every arena of our lives.
Six hours to go before the company arrives, and it’s time to get out of the garden and into the kitchen. Today is not just Friday, nor is this a random dinner party: Today is my birthday. Typically, this is a day when I celebrate how lucky I feel in my life. On this particular afternoon, I’m thinking that in addition to family, friends, and work that I love, what makes me so happy with my life is how every birthday finds me more mature in creating this life that I love. Looking at my newly freshened and open courtyard, I make a silent birthday wish: I wish that in the upcoming year, I remain as intentional about actively pruning, shaping, and utilizing what’s in the garden of my life as I have been in this small space today. I wish for focus and authenticity and a continued attitude of self-transformation that makes my life not only pleasurable and meaningful but emotionally rich and extraordinary. It’s a wish I believe can be granted…by me.