Finding balance in our daily lives can be difficult in today’s fast-paced, smartphone- driven society. Five days a week, my smartphone leaves me feeling as though I am a critical- care neurosurgeon; on-call and always accessible. Without real private time, or privacy. Whether it’s work or family needs, all too often we are encouraged to play the role of the First Responder; always standing ready. Reports tell me that approximately one in five American women are on antidepressants, that tens of millions of our fellow Americans find themselves relying on food stamps, that the most prescribed drug in America is an opiate (Hydrocodone). The yin and yang of modern American Life appears to be stress and self-medication.
Americans seem to have a fondness for emotional roller coaster rides. We start the day with heavy doses of caffeine to reach and maintain the pace, followed by alcohol and/or drugs at the end of the day, in efforts to calm our overloaded psyche. Some of us don’t wait until “Happy Hour” to try to find happiness, to fill a void or patch the wounds. Our DUI courts are perpetually busy. Striving to satisfy our cravings for more of everything, more consumption, we are ultimately left feeling further behind; in debt, exhausted and empty, with an uncertain future. We own lots of “stuff” but have very little satisfaction to show for it.
The question then becomes; “How and where can we find refuge and peace from the drum beat, from stress?” How does one escape from the constant need to be needed, the real or imagined feelings that one has to be in constant contact? What ways can we develop to set aside our worries and rediscover living in the moment? What goals do we set that go beyond more clothing, expensive cars, or vacations bought on credit? Where and how do we find inner peace, harmony, and balance? In our busy world, can we schedule time for adjustment — time to become centered again?
For me, the answer came in creating variety. In quiet, outdoor, nature- based activities. I sell industrial components for a living, burning obscene amounts of refined petroleum every month as a salesman for over 200 industrial product lines. It is fast-paced and demanding. My efforts provide the tools to keep factories moving, helping to stoke the economy by providing parts, experience, and service to industry. However, my real passion is in another realm altogether different. Years ago, amidst the chaos, Mother Nature tapped me on the shoulder. I found peace and calm from the storm in the form of gardening.
To me, gardening is an act of creativity, of building. Gardening is an act of pure optimism (the pessimist only thinks of the weeding and watering). We will adjust to the weather conditions, create a healthy environment in which to nurture, and be rewarded for our efforts. The process requires planning, physical exertion, and some discipline. How sad it is to view the abandoned, weed choked garden (what happened there, what is the story?). While it is said that a whole lot of troubles can be buried in the soil, it is also a place of hope and dreams. When we plant vegetable seeds in the Spring, we are planting hope. When we rip out the lifeless grass (that returns nothing to nature), and we replace it with pollen-bearing flowers, we are planting assistance to the bees. We are giving back. When we plant tulip bulbs on a cold, dark and gloomy October day, we are planting hope for a bright Spring season filled with joy for all who pass by. Beauty is indeed food for the soul.
While gardening may not be your panacea, perhaps you will seek and discover an activity that demands that you create, that you build. Create time to unplug.
There exists the question, “What will you be building when your maker calls you away?” What is your answer?
It’s time to engage your back, strike and turn the dirt, fill and lift your own proverbial shovel full of dreams and hopes for tomorrow. It’s time to rediscover your creative side. To lay in bed at day’s end; bone-tired, exhausted, but satisfied you’re your efforts. Happy Gardening.
Steve is an avid gardener who enjoys growing and hybridizing peonies as a hobby in Shorewood, MN.