Focus on the flowers, not the weeds

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I came across this quote recently. Even though I initially dismissed it as a bit twee, for some reason it stuck in my mind. It somehow helped me frame where my focus and actions is best directed. And this week, with some of the tragedies that have taken place in our world, it helped me to see a way to think about them.

When gardening, I am often struck with how much work there is to do, despite our garden being reasonably small. I know this is mainly because I don’t spend enough time working in it, certainly not compared to how I would like it to look. That’s ok – there is only so much time I have  – but it does mean I have to chose where I put my efforts.

I generally start by getting rid of aspects I don’t like, including the weeds which grow so quickly between my bouts of gardening. I remove and sometimes spray these weeds, and I prune and try to get the plants into a better shape. If I have time left, I feed the plants with various fertilisers (or compost – occasionally, I’m not very diligent with the compost!), I improve the soil, spray for insects and blackspot, and, if I am super organised, I mulch the garden beds, particularly leading into summer, as the soil can get so dry otherwise. However, I usually run out of time for these last steps because the weeds take so long to remove.

I realised recently that my priorities might be out of whack. By focusing on what is wrong and eliminating those, I don’t spend enough time helping those plants I love grow. As a result, although the garden can look neat at times, it’s not always thriving – particularly in hot, dry summers like the one we are expecting this year. I think I need to shift my priorities.

Thinking about it some more, I realised the same applies to how I live my life. I often focus more on the ‘weeds’ – the aspects I don’t like – and not enough on appreciating the ‘flowers’. Can you relate to some of these?

  • There are so many things that I can get annoyed about at home. The towels are often not hung up, there are shoes strewn across the house, and my cushions are always flung on the floor. And that’s just for starters! These annoyances are like weeds my mind. They can obscure me from enjoying things like the beauty of the drawings my daughter has created for me, the dinner my husband has made, and the (sometimes funny) jokes my son delights in sharing.
  • There are rude people that I come across daily – surely I’m not the only one who experiences this? Car drivers cut in front of us in traffic, those we have completed work for may fail to acknowledge our efforts, friends or family members may talk only about themselves rather than asking after us. These situations are like weeds too. It may be that these people are dealing with situations we are unaware of, maybe we are only noticing the times we perceived we are not appreciated and forget other validations (that’s one of my tendencies) and sometimes, actually, our friends’ needs may be greater at this point of time. And in that case, we are fortunate to be able to help them.
  • Many people with influence do make stupid decisions on a regular basis. I am not talking about actions that cruelly impact on people, or are destructive to the environment. I’m referring to throwaway lines in interviews, poorly considered policies that can be rectified – things that are clearly made in ignorance. Weeds again.  Better to focus energies on aspects where we can contribute and make positive and effective impacts in the world than to get all worked up about carelessness (note to self).
  • And like many people, I know that I can be overly self critical, feeling I have to be able to do everything perfectly on my first attempt, feel I will never look or be good enough (against a benchmark that is not always clear), or dismiss outcomes I’ve achieved with the throwaway line ‘it was nothing’. In doing so, I run the risk of failing to appreciate the gifts that I have been given, the ‘flowers’ of abilities and talents which I have, and we all have, if we are prepared to look and tend to them.

I feel like I don’t sit back enough and enjoy the flowers in my life, and I need to spend more time doing so – appreciating the good in life, and helping this good to grow and develop. By doing this, I think my perspective on life will continue to change and I will see how much good there already is within it.

I’m not saying by this that we should completely ignore those ‘weeds’ that do exist. Of course we need to keep looking at how to improve and grow in areas where we are not strong, and we need to make sure we don’t allow ourselves to be taken for granted and become resentful as a result. And I for one am determined that, eventually, my children will actually clean up after themselves. However, there is a difference between making positive changes and dwelling on things that are not going right. Too much of the latter means these ‘weeds’ could grow into a forest sapping all our time and energy.

 

The events of this week have brought this home to me. The terrible hostage situation in Sydney showed how easy it is to be terrified, pointing at reasons for blame, and coming up with extreme solutions, Yes, measures need to be put in place to better deal with people who have demonstrated violence through prior actions. At the same time, such overwhelming support and solidarity has been shown for the victims of this crime, and for the community as a whole (such as the ‘I’ll ride with you’ movement). And it has demonstrated both bravery (on the part of the cafe manager and the police), as well as the fact that life is short and to be appreciated. To me, it is important that we focus mostly on these positives.

Likewise, the mass shooting of nearly 150 school children, school staff and soldiers in Islamabad, Pakistan, a couple of days ago, is an absolute tragedy, of a scale I can hardly imagine. Sometimes the greatest tragedies happen far from home, and, as they are in different contexts, they may not impact on me as greatly. But this was truly horrific. I do not know how to see any positives in this – even trying to think about the joy that the children will have given their parents in their short lives seems to be clutching at straws, Pollyanna like. But I know that rage and disgust won’t help either. I have no answer for this one.

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Source: 702 ABC Sydney

I am comforted by the sight of the flowers in Martin Place, and in my mind, I am now seeing flowers as a tribute, a recognition of the blessings of lives lived, no matter how short, and wherever they have been cut short. They are a triumph over the the outpouring of grief, and identification, and loss – and care. They also remind me of other losses, also precious, in places outside of Sydney. I refuse to let the weeds of ugly violence and destruction take my focus away from what these lovely flowers represent.

 

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