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Watering the Right Garden

Thoughts on focusing your efforts where you want to grow.

I kill plants.

I mean, not for fun or anything. It’s quite the opposite. I love plants and flowers more than I can say—anything green. I’ll have entire conversations with plants and trees and I’ve found they are excellent listeners.

I watched a video of a time-lapse of house plants that showed how much they move in 24 hours. So now I’m convinced they’re alive! (I mean, of course, they’re “alive.” I mean, as long as they don’t live at my house.) But now, I attach personalities to them.

My dearly departed friend Sherry gifted me a Myer lemon tree years ago because I complained during an epic meltdown about how I kept having to move and that I just wanted “A DAMN HOUSE WITH A LEMON TREE!”

So she sent me a Myer lemon tree for Christmas. You can grow them in pots because they are great at being mobile. They must be adventurous trees who enjoy traveling, experiencing new cultures and climates, and long walks on the beach. So, when it came time for my next inevitable move, I proudly took my tree with me.

I want to explain to you what it looked like by the time I arrived in Texas. Close your eyes. Now imagine a single stick in some dirt in a pot. That was it. Or at least by the time, it spent three months with me. All the leaves had fallen off. There were no branches. Just a stick—that I watered.

Now, I followed the rules by the letter. I read the entire instruction pamphlet, and I NEVER read any instruction pamphlet. I worked my hardest to keep “Daphne” alive. I watered her when I was supposed to and gave her lots of light and love. I have no idea what happened. Upon setting up the next temporary dwelling in Texas, my boyfriend looked at it one day, basking in the sun on my balcony, and asked, “What the hell is that?”

I replied. “That’s Daphne. My lemon tree.”

He looked at me, almost waiting for the punchline before he could tell I was serious. Then he gently broke the bad news. “You understand it’s dead, right?”

I cried.

I like to think that Sherry and Daphne are having a heavenly laugh at my expense. (She was a brilliant gardener and, as you can imagine, Daphne, an excellent listener.)

I’ve heard from any experienced gardener that there’s no such thing as putting a garden on autopilot. They take your full attention. But, more importantly, they require consistency. I may have left Daphne alone too much. Or given her what I thought she needed, not what she required.

I had an epiphany yesterday. I own a business, and I like it. I enjoy the work immensely. It affords me the ability to be creative and avoid people. What’s not to love about that? Recently I’ve put a ton of thought into making my business grow. Of course, it requires a massive amount of time and effort, which is not a bad thing. I had this great idea that I wanted to run with, and I knew I needed to plan out my time to focus my attention on that one area.

But then it hit me. I am watering the wrong garden.

I always view my business as a catalyst for what I really want to do. And that is to write. Writing makes me happier than just about anything on the planet. Outside of my family, my cat, and this one little teaspoon that I swear brings a smile every day and so I look for excuses to use it.

I’ve been editing two books that I’ve written. (One novel. One self-help-ish.) They also require a massive amount of focus. But, I’m learning that writing them was the easy part. Revising and getting them right is quite another.

I realize that I have a trust issue, too. I trust the business to grow and get all leafy green, but I don’t trust that the writing business will. There’s no guarantee that either will grow. But neither will grow without proper tending.

For being such a Negative Nellie, there’s always one part of me that remains the eternal optimist. If you put your full efforts in the direction of a goal, you will achieve it. I’m not sure why I can apply this to one area of my life (the business) but have doubts about it in another (the writing).

Sometimes I think it’s because I want it too much and that I’m not allowed to have the things I enjoy the most in life for some weird cosmic reason. Like a home that’s mine. A lemon tree. A New York Times bestseller.

But I know this much. I have to choose what I want. I have to get crystal clear on it and then act on it. Every day I need to get up and clear out the weeds. Give that goal a proper amount of light and attention. I have to water it every day. None of this “I don’t feel like it” crap. It’s like a relationship. You can’t just show up every once in a while. And you can’t spend time with someone else but expect your relationship garden to grow.

A goal, like a garden, is a commitment. But the most important thing is that you have to make sure you water the right one every damn day.

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