grow, marvel, eat, laugh, persevere

Sunday, March 27, 2011

About, Part 2

It is hard to articulate the hell I went through trying to dig those individual holes right through the sod, but I had no idea I was supposed to remove it, first.  Looking back it seems awfully foolish.  By the time I was done it had taken me five hours to plant my 8 x 10 foot garden.  I placed the cheap silver metal tomato cages I'd bought from the big box store upside down over the tomato plants and stood, drenched in sweat, in awe of my work.  I loved the way the small green plants looked against the backdrop of the black weed barrier and the way the lovely smell of the tomato plants lingered on my hands.

After I showered and collapsed on the couch, muscles aching, it occurred to me that work, my day job, hadn't crossed my mind a single time.  It was the first time in over a year that I'd been able to completely detach from it for that long.  

At work, I'd become one of the project leaders on the implementation of our new electronic medical record. I had no training or experience in Information Systems so I had to learn my way through a new field and because of my specific responsibilities on the project I felt an immense sense of responsibility for how successful it would be.  I was primarily responsible for defining how our current workflows would be executed in the new electronic record and our goal was to be paperless.  We were planning to roll out the new system Big Bang Style meaning all sections would be converted from paper to electronic with the flip of a switch.  It was a huge change for everyone and the worry was palpable.  This is an oversimplified, maybe over dramatized version of it but it's how I felt.  By the time I started that garden, I had been on anti depressants for months trying to combat depression and anxiety but none of it helped. I thought of work when I was at work, and when I wasn't.  When I was home I was constantly checking emails, running through potential workflows in my head, tossing around ideas of how to make users embrace the new system.  I was fixated on worst case scenarios,  catastrophes related to the project and about how my relationship with my coworkers was being shaped by my role in its implementation.  In my dreams, I was always showing up to work naked, or without shoes. No matter what I tried, even the drugs, I was really only engaged with work. I was in a constant state of heightened anxiety.  I wasn't a lot of fun to be around.   I'm not blaming work.  I have a tendency to fixate on things, explore them from every possible angle, over analyze and psychoanalyze.  This trait makes me good at my job but I struggle with work-life balance so I'm always at risk for challenging and invigorating projects like this to mentally hijack me.  That day, gardening got me in the moment.

I was fully focused on the task at hand.  The way the sole of my foot felt as I placed all my weight on the shovel forcing it through the sod.  The way the dirt looked and what it felt like my hands.  The epiphanies.  That sod should be removed first and then the holes should be dug.  Somehow knowing that my dirt was lifeless even though I didn't really know what dirt that was alive looked like.  I was proud of the work I'd done and I felt like I'd accidentally discovered some secret drug that would help restore my sanity.

Later that evening in a flash of genius I realized that the narrow part of the tomato cage goes at the base of the plant, the pointed ends meant to be buried in the ground at the base to secure it and eventually support the tomato plants heavy with fruit.  In pajamas I ran outside and flipped the four cages over.  As I pushed the spiked ends into the ground the cheap metal bent.  When I had straightened them as much as possible I wandered back into the house, my hands dirty again, wanting to call everybody I knew to tell them about my new garden.

Edited to add: Stay tuned for Part 3

Read About, Part 1, here


  1. Your utter fearlessness at trying, failing, and fessing up is what drew me to your blog in the first place. What a wonderful story, and what a wonderful discovery about gardening.

  2. So "My Skinny Garden" is because of the tomato cages ?

  3. Xan - there is another part! I should have said that in the first place. I hadn't realized I left this post with loose ends. Thanks for the words..

    bag - no.

  4. Awesome! I loved your post and can totally relate to the obsessive worrying...I hope you had some really good tomatoes that year!

  5. Isn't learning the hard way the most rewarding?! :) I've always liked how I can lose myself in the garden (and nowhere else; also an overthinker).

  6. You got hooked quick. Love that you returned to flip the tomato cages in your pajamas. I have totally done things like that when I realize something late at night. The garden gets my mind off my work too. It is great therapy. Thank you for sharing. I'm holding out on my guesses for the blog name. Waiting for more of the story.

  7. I love your story. I went to school and studied gardening (horticulture if you want to get fancy). But it's great that someone with little knowledge can still gain so much from growing a garden.

  8. Gardening is such good therapy! Since I grew up gardening I can't really remember life without it. There's no place else I feel so fully myself, so fully alive, and so fully at peace with the world and with myself. Working, or just sitting in the garden, for me has always been a magical, Zen-like experience where time has no meaning and nothing else matters.