Analogies about life and how to live it abound.
Let’s see. There’s “Life is like a box of chocolates,” and “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” Or perhaps “Play the hand you’re dealt.” I bet you can think of others.
Not long ago I came across a new one while listening to The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön: Your life is your own plot of ground to tend. This spark inspired the sort of extended, meandering metaphor I love best.
Life Is A Garden
Your garden, to be precise — which makes you the gardener. Pull on your boots, roll up your sleeves, and prepare to get dirty in the name of growth and flourishing beauty.
You don’t have much control over the plot you get or what it contains, but as the gardner you can do amazing things with what you have. Take the raw materials you find in yourself and in your life and nurture them, develop them, shape them into the sort of place you want to spend your time.
The things you plant and nurture will shape you. Tend your plantings carefully. Neglect will kill them, but so will too much attention. It’s a slow, ongoing process with plenty of beauty along the way. Don’t miss it. There is no end goal. Relish what you are creating with your own two hands every single day.
If you fall behind and the weeds start to sprout, catch up. It’s nothing a little strategic pruning can’t fix. There is beauty in an untended plot, grown wild with weeds. There is loveliness and potential in a stark patch of unplanted earth. But the most productive, fruitful, rewarding gardens are the ones that are tended with love.
You can’t control what others do with their plots. Stop trying. Their lives — their gardens — are theirs to nurture or to waste as they see fit. All you can do is offer encouragement, wisdom, support. They must do the tending. They must make the final call. Focus on what you can control.
What if the view from your garden sucks? Tough cookies. Make your garden amazing and no one will notice — not even you. Someone on a nearby plot annoying you beyond what you can deal with? Put up a lush, glorious hedge and go about your business.
And of course, let’s not forget the crap we have to go through. The failures, the bad days, the painful and disheartening experiences? Those, my friends, are the fertilizer. Till it into your garden, make it a part of you, let its presence make you stronger.
It’s up to you what you’ll grow in that rich soil, in your very own garden. Will you let the weeds grow wild or plant something magnificent?
Think About It
If life is a garden, what do you grow?