I had not thought of Contrary Mary and her nursery rhyme in years when it popped into my head. The thoughts preceding this archaic nursery rhyme were of spring and new beginnings, which made me think of what seeds I am planting in my garden. Yes, seeds as in soil, Home Depot, pots or gardens, but what other seeds am I planting too, like seeds of curiosity, tolerance, and compassion? Am I growing something positive or something negative in my life and in my relationships? I can grow and nurture anything I put my mind to, even things like gossip, self-righteousness, or seeds of discontent. What I choose to focus on is what I grow. What do I perpetuate in my habitual unexamined behavior? If Mary, Mary, is quite contrary, I am betting there is some nasty, angry, thorny, mulish, and pious shite thriving in her back forty.
One of winter’s gifts is it is a time of dormancy, during which we rest and are contemplative. It is the part of the cycle that restores in order for birth to follow. Spring brings in opportunities for the new and different. Spring cleaning can be cathartic, going through closets, pulling out things that no longer fit, are worn out or never really worked at all and giving them away. That same spring cleaning can be done in our psyche too, in our emotional and spiritual lives as well as our physical. What toxic relationships are we engaging in? What unhealthy lifestyle habits are slowing us down and making us sick? What ennui or fear is surrounding our power, passion or clarity so we are stuck? What part of our lives no longer fits, has worn out its welcome, or never really worked but we choose to ignore it?
Spring is a perfect time to discard what does not serve us in all areas of our lives and to plant something good, something powerful, and to grow more of what we want to reap. The quality of our lives, our happiness, health and contentment, is a direct result of everything we say, do and think. We are the fertile ground.
I know folks might ask, “What I think? Really, how can I control what I think?!” What I say about that is I have an impulse, a thought, which is a reaction to what is happening around me. That is instant and uncontrollable. It is a pure reaction. However, when I choose to revisit, mull over, obsesses, play back over and over an event and get madder, or sadder or more self-righteous, that is on me. When I choose to rerun and repeat those bad stories or negative self-talk loops, I am making a poor choice. I am not processing what has happened in order to move on, instead I am self-inflicting the trauma over and over to validate my pain and deepen a negative story I have attached to an event.
When the little fat mean man in my head goes to those negative stories and dredges them up, I can choose to say, “Naw, sit down buddy-boy it’s not your call to make,” and consciously move my thoughts to something good, to something that feels better. I might have to do that over and over with myself, especially if it is a recent event and there is a lot of emotion or charge attached to it. The more space I can put in there between me and playing those negative stories, the better chance I have of letting go, processing and moving on. This by no means is easy or quick: change takes time, practice and a desire to do so. Look, it took time to get here, and it takes time to move away from here, no matter where here is.
So here is your invitation to spring: I invite you to look at your garden, your back forty, your life and see what you are growing. Find one thing, a small thing you would like to uproot and discard. Take a look at that thing, that behavior, that choice and think about what you want to cultivate instead. What healthier or more powerful, passionate thing can you plant instead? What I know about goals and change is they have to be specific, measureable, time sensitive and small bites in order to build on success. Keep that criteria in mind with this process, and using a journal too will help chart progress.
So to give you an example, this is how I am inviting in spring and replanting my garden: I committed to writing a blog a month this past January even though I am tussling with writing a book. I am happy to say so far I have been successful at keeping that promise. In terms of my garden, what is growing that I am not happy with is that I am just tussling, not writing that book, only notes here and there. I am feeling like I don’t know enough and I am a little lost on how to start this giant endeavor, so I just keep thinking on it and not doing it. I am procrastinating. I want more clarity before starting, but I am realizing that clarity might come with the doing and not the thinking. Drat, I so hate that! So what I am choosing to plant in place of procrastination with the book is I am committing to writing for one hour a week just for the book. It does not have to be good writing; in fact, I am giving myself permission to write drivel if need be, just to write and find my way to what works by first creating an awful mess.
Did you see what I did just there? I gave myself permission to suck at something before I got better through practice and learning. Doing this allows me to play, to feel my way there, to get to mastery through slow, steady progress. I set my expectations low because it is the start of doing this that is the key, not the quality. The quality of what I write will come with clarity and time. Not starting is my sticking point, and letting all expectations about perfection, goodness or anything not connected to the starting is what I let go of. Distilling what I need to do, which piece is the important first piece to tackle—in my example it is the starting to write the book—distilling it down helps me choose what I do first. Then keeping it a simple and singular act helps me focus on just what the first step is to move forward, to make my change.
That was my example but yours could be around growing better eating habits because the only fruit you consume is the cranberry juice in your Cosmo and the only vegetables are french fries. How you might approach that scenario is by committing to eating three servings of fruits or vegetables a day or if that is too much, three servings for five days a week. Whatever feels doable, not too easy, definitely not too hard, and just a touch “oh hell what did I just commit to.” What you might want to rip out of your garden connecting to this is maybe cutting your trips through the drive thru in half or by a third. Make it specific, measurable and time-specific, and also make it public. Telling someone gives it power and, Lord, it helps us be far more accountable in doing it too. If I tell my friend Josh I will meet him at the gym at 6:30am, you bet your ass that when the alarm goes off in the dark I will get out of bed because he is waiting. If I don’t have that agreement with him and I am doing it on my own and that alarm goes off in the dark, you can bet I am turning it off, rolling over, and kicking myself when I wake up.
So for spring, I am asking you to look at your lives, your gardens and consider trying this exercise: consider removing something that is negatively impacting you and growing something that feeds you, makes you happier and healthier, and empowers you. I am asking you to just notice what seeds you are planting in your daily lives. What are you nurturing within yourself and within others? How does that feel? Is it what you want and need? Be conscious of what you do, say and think. Are those things in alignment with your values and beliefs? Spring is about new beginnings, like a do-over, so take it and run with it. As to spring being the only do-over or new beginning, I have news for you: so is each dawn. After spring comes and goes, we can do this same practice every morning we crawl, roll, hop or dance out of bed and into our beautifully planted back forties.