why i'm happy i'm not a gardener

The funny thing about the title of this post is that a couple of my closest Nashville friends are not just gardeners, but professional gardeners. (And for a woman-owned, almost entirely female-staffed gardening biz with a badass Rosie-the-Riveter-inspired logo, no less). If I were them, I'd see this headline and be all "whaaaa why is Val throwing shade?" — to which my response is, "girl, I thought you'd want all the shade you can get, it's getting pretty damn hot out there." #horriblepunintended

I digress.

As my hard-working hubby Chris is outside at this very moment pulling weeds and planting herbs, I'm in here in the air-conditioned living room on the couch, typing away in my little computer world. Do I feel guilty? Well, a tiny bit, since I will totes enjoy those herbs — but he knows gardening is NOT my thing, and that when I do it, I get really pissy after about ten minutes, so it's really no fun to be around me anyway. Left to my own devices, I'd plant and kill herbs for a month or two (spare me the lecture on how to care for herbs kthx) until resigning myself to paying for the exorbitantly overpriced grocery store variety.  

A couple of years ago, inspired by my badass aforementioned gardener friends, I said I wanted to learn how to garden. Oh boy! I couldn't wait to get some tips and lessons from them, get my hands on some gardening books, and dig in.

But it never happened.

For a long while, I felt guilty about it. "What's wrong with me? Why am I not taking action on this? I keep saying I want to do it, and doing nothing." Chris would convince me, literally maybe once/season, to get out in the yard with him. (For him, it's not even so much as having the help as it is the company — sweet, and misguided, as he eventually learned re: the quality of the company.) 

I don't remember at what point I swallowed my pride and admitted it to myself, but sometime in the last year or so, I finally said it: I really don't like gardening. In fact, I kind of actually HATE gardening. 


Why did this take me so long to figure out? Even our house plants are only kept alive because of Chris. Kind of like the herbs — sure, I enjoy them, but if it were just me, I'd buy a bouquet every month or so, occasionally kill and replace a few succulents, and otherwise get my nature fix outdoors. 

The reason it took me so long to admit this to myself or anyone else was that it was high up on a my list of "shoulds." Ah yes, we are all familiar with this list. Now of course, not all "shoulds" are bad — if it weren't for "shoulds," I'd skip half my workdays in favor of sleeping 'til noon and bingeing on New Girl with a pint of cashewmilk snickerdoodle ice cream (*drool*). Sounds great, sure, and also like a fast track to mortgage foreclosure. 

A word about "shoulds"

But the truly unnecessary "shoulds" — especially those motivated by having the Instagram-perfect-life — honey, I ain't got time for that. I am genuinely inspired and impressed by my gardener friends, but no longer feel that just because I admire them means I should do it, too. There are plenty of other ways for me to engage with my passions and with nature. 

These days, I am proud to say that I'm not a gardener, because saying so is being authentic to myself despite the fact that the alternate-me wishes I enjoyed gardening. Alternate-me also wishes I wanted kids, but since real-me doesn't, having them would be a pretty terrible idea. 

I'm not saying that everything worth doing should be fun or enjoyable all the time, either. There are plenty worthwhile pursuits (including gardening, kids, and 5000 other things) that are far from easy/fun all the time, but totally worth doing if the pros outweigh the cons for you. And that has to be a very individual decision. People often tell me they can't imagine being a therapist, especially focusing on trauma. But for me, this particular brand of not-always-easy-or-fun is one I'm happy to sign up for, because the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Always be growing (like a plant I'm not in charge of)

One more caveat: as humans, we are not fixed creatures. Rather, if you have a "growth mindset," you don't describe yourself saying "this is just the way I am." I'm an ex-shopaholic-turned-minimalist, ex-cheese-obsessed-turned-vegan, after all. So who knows. A year from now or twenty, I might decide that I really do like gardening. And if that's the case, cool! I think with most things we feel strongly about, it's worth getting curious every once in a while. (Think you still hate mustard? When's the last time you tried it? Ok you really still hate it? Well fine, we can't all be right all the time. :P )

But for the time being, I'm content with my black thumb. And I'd love to hear — is there something that you "should" on yourself (you knew I was gonna get that in there before the end) about? What would it be like to give yourself permission to be real and drop your proverbial shovel? 

PS - Chris walked back inside just now — "Did you take a nap?"
Me: "No, I wrote a whole blog post though!"
Chris (holding a bunch of freshly-cut mint): "Nice, what's it about?"
Me, excitedly: "How I hate gardening!"
Chris: "Ah, I'll have to read it and see if I can understand where you're coming from."


Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.