Tending the garden
Some things in this world are given to you and others you earn. A pretty sunset, for example. That’s a gift, if you take the time to pause your busy life and unwrap it. But the spring and the warm summer days that lay ahead, those we’ve earned after the long hard winter we just endured. I think we’ll all appreciate the sun on our face and long walks in the park. Heck, just driving with the windows down will be a treat.
As the grass grows and the birds build their nests, I find myself looking at my yard and the gardening yet to do and it occurs to me that, when it comes to relationships, much of what we need to know can be found hiding in plain sight in the dirt and flowers. The very things that make a garden grow and thrive also apply to you and your significant other.
Watering – Everyone knows flowers will die without water and in our relationships the same is true, only the “water” is communication. The simple act of talking and sharing what is going on with you is like water from the hose. It costs virtually nothing and doesn’t have to be anything more complicated than asking, “How was your day?” Everyone is so busy chasing something that they forget they’ve already caught the greatest prize; it’s sitting across the living room right now fiddling with the remote or checking a Facebook status. Shut off the machines and talk like couples used to before we invented all these distractions.
Weeding – Anyone who has ever planted flowers can tell you how quickly it can go from a masterpiece to a mess if you don’t weed things once in a while. In a relationship that means watching out for small problems and dealing with them before they grow and take hold. That old saying, “Never let the sun set on an argument,” is old for a reason; because it’s true. Harboring tiny resentments over tiny things drives a wedge between couples, so when you spot a weed, pull it.
Roots – While confronting small issues before they become big ones is key, it’s also important to leave the past alone. Your mate had a whole life before they ever met you and it is not your place to solve every problem that came before you. Encouraging family to get along is great; insisting your partner explain why they have issues with a parent or sibling and then forcing them to try to fix it is, for lack of a better phrase, none of your business. Be supportive but respectful of things that have nothing to do with you. There are roots running under the grass in your yard right now; start pulling them all up and you end up with a mess.
Perennials – There are two kinds of flowers just like there are two types of partners in life: annuals and perennials. Annuals are often cheap and flashy and nice to have around for a while, but they’re gone with the first frost. Those are the people you date. Perennials may not be as dazzling at first glance, but they possess a deeper beauty and they are built to stay. That’s who you marry or partner up with for eternity. They sometimes cost a little more in terms of an emotional investment on your part, but trust me, they’re worth it.
Tend to your own – There are two human characteristics that often lead to man’s (or woman’s) downfall: boredom and envy. You work so hard to achieve something great and then stop appreciating it – boredom. Then you start thinking your garden isn’t good enough, find yourself looking at what others have and soon enough you’re wandering in places you shouldn’t be to acquire it – envy. Social media makes things too easy for the bored and stupid to get into trouble. You start looking up an old boyfriend’s profile or glancing at pictures of the girl in the office and, well, you know how the rest goes. Sometimes we need a swift kick in the head, but in reality all you need to do is take a step back from your own life and look at what you do have and what you’ll lose if you neglect it.
Nobody’s yard or relationship is perfect, but it can be something special if you put the time and effort in. I know, I know, watering twice a day is monotonous, pulling weeds is a pain and ignoring roots you sometimes trip on takes discipline, but you can do it. So, if you’re done messing around with the annuals and you’ve found that one special perennial, treasure it. They come along once in a lifetime and that’s only if you’re lucky.
John Gray is weekly columnist for the Troy Record and the Saratogian newspapers and news anchor at ABC 10 and FOX 23. He can be reached at email@example.com