Becoming ‘That’ Neighbor

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(Photo taken by me in Chinese Camp, CA.)

I jokingly tell myself nowadays, “I’ve taken to Scooby Doo styled landscapes.” If you visit my garden, I’ll even say it out loud and it will be followed up by one of those half-hearted self-effacing nervous laughs one’s prone to when they’re ashamed of their mess.

Yeah, life happens. I know. I know.

And I’m overwhelmed by the mess—daily. But unlike other messes this one grows—and then grows some more—and it just keeps on growing.

You see houses like mine if you walk around enough and get to know your neighborhood. I can only speculate as to the causes of this kind of decline but clearly it can be anything from old age or an injury, to the addition of a small child or two, maybe even a divorce or depression.

Gardening clearly takes time, energy, and money. We don’t all have these luxuries and I’m afraid I took them for granted when they were more readily available to me. When I first began blogging and was very ill with autoimmune disfunction I was receiving financial support from my family and my days were my own. I read and ordered seeds. I tended to new plants. I worked when I could, but best of all, I was not a stressed out underemployed woman with chronic health issues using all of her energy to pay her own way in the world.

Oh how times have changed…

Yeah. That’s my house right now. I went through the illness, depression, divorce, depression and injury phases. [Sigh.] Sometimes I feel badly that my gardening ‘issues’ don’t appear in the glossy magazines with lust-worthy photos of beautiful gardens that I will never be able to afford. Clearly, I’m a great target audience—and I’ve done my fair share of feeling envious—but I’m a realist.

Despite having wanted to fix things up there’s neither been the available labor nor the money to pay for additional labor. Medical issues (aka life) really can put an end to gardening efforts in a flash.

I’ve been in denial about how bad it’s gotten around here, but I’m finally feeling a bit less overwhelmed. I can manage my physical energy better between work and home. My back is getting better post-surgery and I appear to be building more muscle. I’m committing to a second round of allergy shots to decrease swelling. Discovering I’m allergic to black pepper and all peppers has dramatically improved my breathing. (I had no idea how bad my breathing was before a few weeks ago and am relieved now.) To relieve stress—with the time I have—I either read, write, exercise, or cook. There’s still not a lot left over for gardening, but I’m committed to started seeds again this year.

I’m also committed to making improvements in my own life when I see areas that need help. If this round in the garden doesn’t work out in 2015, I’m likely going to need to focus more time on managing my health and this blog will end. Though this makes me kind of sad, on the other hand, I very much like to watch things grow.

8 thoughts on “Becoming ‘That’ Neighbor

  1. Amy Campion

    The first house we bought was a big old house with a huge garden area in a rather run-down neighborhood (the opposite of what you should get). I had tons of energy then and loved working in the garden until dark just about every night. Then I realized I was way in over my head, had made too big of a garden, the house always needed something fixed, and it overwhelmed me. I couldn’t keep up, even without the health problems you’ve had to deal with. I had had fun and learned a lot, but felt like I had failed. It was freeing to be able to sell it and start over at a new smaller house with a much more manageable garden and not make all those same mistakes again. One of the mistakes I had made before was starting new projects all over the property. I should have started around the house and worked out. And kept the lawn mowed in the meantime. Hope you can make it work. I know the feeling. It’s crazy how fast stuff grows. I had 2-inch caliper weeds (saplings)!

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    • Thanks for the candid honesty Amy. The good news here is that we have a small old house that needs work and a small city garden in a desirable neighborhood. Sometimes I do wish we could sell it and move into a condo, but I don’t see that happening just yet. I guess we’ll see how it goes in 2015. I am looking forward to at least rededicating myself to this and really pushing it through.

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    • Reaching out for some help was the first thing I did. Luckily that will give me something else to write about on my blog too. Introducing new characters to refresh the story is always good. I have a kitten to introduce too.

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  2. Elvis

    Ann, your garden is wonderful. It is NOT like that overgrown garden you show in Chinese Camp!! That said, I know that feeling of being overwhelmed by all the things that need doing and it’s not good for your state of mind. Regardless of your process in handling your garden concerns, I hope you don’t completely abandon your blog, even if you write much less frequently. Your voice is needed in our blogging community and the world in general! Give yourself and your garden a very gentle hug and feel hopeful.

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    • I’m definitely hopeful and am realistically divided between what I need/want to do and the limited energy I have in addition to the ongoing asthma and allergy issues. To pay for treatments, I’m going to need to work more and getting back on that horse is not easy for me physically. Some things are going to need to go but I’ll never stop writing. Thanks for being so nice too J.

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  3. Patience…it will get better. Life like gardens is dynamic, it ebbs and flows. We come to a dead end in the labyrinth, take a turn, and then suddenly the way is clear. You have many good and beautiful days ahead.

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