Life never fails to surprise me. It can be awe-inspiring and abundant one minute and challenging and chaotic the next.
This summer, the universe bestowed all of its diverse, infinite wisdom upon me in the form of a backyard garden.
I've always been drawn to the idea of nurturing another life form and receiving nature's gifts in return. I had always wanted a garden but let the fear that I wouldn't be able to do it "right" get in my way.
This year was different.
This year marked a major shift in my mindset. I began to dream about a luscious oasis, jam-packed with fruits and vegetables, spread across the garden in a rainbow of colors. While I wasn't sure how to accomplish this dream, I decided to go for it. I researched with magazines and websites. I started tilling the soil, adding compost, finding seeds that would do well in my climate zone. I created a foundation for my goal and got into the right mental state.
By the end of the growing season, I began to notice metaphors within nature that paralleled life. Here are a few lessons I plucked from my garden and am still carrying with me:
1. Everything takes time, and patience is key.
Most people are energized when they first set goals—brimming with optimism about the opportunities on the horizon. That's how I felt when I started my garden, as I proudly admired the rich, black soil and all my hard work. As I stood there, I envisioned lush green leaves and glistening dew drops on bell peppers.
But a week went by and I didn't see any inkling of life. I became disheartened, second-guessed myself, and wondered where I had gone wrong. I waited a little bit longer and watered the garden, not knowing if it actually made any difference. I held out hope that at least some of the plants would sprout.
As I combed through Google's gardening forums for tips and tricks, all sources told me I needed more of one thing: patience.
That's when it hit me: This is the same process people go through when working toward any other goal. They wait and wait, sometimes feeling frustrated or hopeless when they don't see results right away. They may desperately shift from one strategy to another. They might choose to give up.
In the end, I chose patience. I waited. And then I waited some more. I faithfully watered and weeded my garden, and one afternoon as I approached the rich, earthy soil to check for signs of life, I was greeted by tiny lime green sprouts pushing their way through the surface. My eyes lit up and I went into full proud mama mode. I felt like the kid who'd just mastered riding her bike without training wheels. It was a process that simply couldn't be rushed, and I was filled with hope yet again.
2. Sometimes you have to relinquish control.
I wasn't home free yet. In the garden, there are all kinds of potentially destructive pests and diseases. The plants are at the mercy of their environment.
Similarly, in life, once we begin to accomplish our goals, critics and naysayers creep out of the woodwork, intensely envious of our hustle and dedication. Then more outside influences creep in: Someone gets sick or passes away unexpectedly, your computer has a meltdown, or any number of unexpected obstacles arise. These are the pests of life, and sometimes, just like the tiny plants, we, too, are at the mercy of our environment.
Ultimately, we cannot control the people, the pests, the diseases, the accidents, or the natural disasters. But we do have a choice in how we respond and whether or not we have faith that the universe will take care of us, and our gardens.
3. We choose how we cope.
When we begin to manifest our goals, we may experience fear. Fear that someone or something will destroy what we worked so hard for, fear of failing, or even fear of success.
Some turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with this fear while others try to tightly control people or situations. Some choose to give up and settle. And then there are those who choose to believe that in life, there are lessons to be learned, the universe will provide, and that we can only do our best to operate from a place of love and compassion.
My garden battled many enemies this summer. Ears of corn lost their kernels to worms with voracious appetites. Tomato leaves browned and wilted with viruses. Red bell peppers faded to black, and strong gusts of wind tore apart hollow zucchini stems. I shook my head and wondered why I'd even wanted a garden in the first place.
I could have said "screw it" and walked away. I could have decided that I just wasn't cut out to be a gardener. When faced with frustration, I chose to view these challenges through a different lens and fight back. I figured out the best way to remove the vine borers from pumpkin stems, bought organic sprays and soaps, and pulled weeds from the garden. I gingerly tucked bird netting in between wooden stakes, and I secured the perimeter of the garden with chicken wire to keep out hungry critters. I did everything within my power, and the rest was up to the universe.
And I've been abundantly rewarded.
Each morning I wake up to a new treasure as I spot hints of ruby red bell peppers and tomatoes boldly peeking through green leaves from my kitchen window. I have crisp, fresh lettuce every single day without needing to run to the store. I've witnessed a tiny seed effortlessly transform into a 20-pound pumpkin. I've savored the juiciness of a homegrown watermelon and made zucchini bread that filled my home with the sweet scent of cinnamon for days.
My garden taught me to do what you can, and leave the rest to fate. That’s really all anyone can do. When we take action and act from a place of love, our garden of life will bloom and we'll be rewarded with abundance and richness. As cliché as it sounds, we will, in fact, reap what we sow.