Weeds, like difficult people, serve a purpose

Weeds, labor-generating and vexing as they are, serve a purpose. Eventually, they break up unworkable soil. Then they are removed or replaced, just like troublesome folks in our lives. Yet we grow from conflict.

Twenty years ago, there was a garden patch of dry, clay-like soil when we bought our home.  Only weeds sprouted there, and I wondered, “How do they grow in such lifeless ground?”  But grow they did, and later, when they were pulled out, the remaining soil was loose and pliable, which surprised me.  I learned that fast-growing weeds are nature’s way of building up the soil with nutrients and breaking down compacted dirt.

If you doubt that transformative power, simply look to the Big Island of Hawaii where over time, lava is broken up by hardy shoots, giving way to lush growth.

So weeds do have a benefit.

I compare weeds to negative people in my life.  Some feel hopelessly embedded (co-workers, relatives, politicians) or they are flashes of toxicity (rude strangers, mean drivers).

Weeds are weeds.  Until such time as I can uproot them from my life, I have to sit back and ask, “What good am I getting out of this deal?”

And in my mind, Ben Franklin answers back, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.”

It’s my chance to choose my reaction.  Perhaps it is a practice session to be patient, to listen, to think before I speak. Better yet, not to be consumed by stress, or to make the problem the 100% focus in all my conversations.  Lord help me.

I’m getting better at it. After all, who among us hasn’t evolved, say, from 20, 30, or 40 years ago? We start off as know-it-alls, until the realities of relationships, child-raising, financial difficulties, and loss humble us.

I’ll speak for myself.  The burned hand learns best.  In my youth, I was arrogant with advice, ready to debate-to-death my opponents. I’d go up in a sheet of flame if you pushed my buttons, quick with cruel and sarcastic reply. I’d complain to anyone who had the misfortune of tuning in.  Pity the poor grocery clerk.

But the weeds in my life have taught me to be patient, to take the long view. Dealing with invasives in my life make me more measured. I am ever digging at my dense, inner earth.

Listen, I rarely react with a deep breath and an “Omm.”  No, I am a work-in-progress. However, now I am mindful that escalation and the regret that follows are not worth it. I want to put a stop to saying, “I wish I had never said that.”

Surveying my garden in Milton, I see blooms where hard, dry soil once existed.  Will weed-pulling ever end?  Of course not.  But meanwhile, long taproots break up compacted places deep in the soil, making way for future beauty.  Just like within my deepest self, where there is still work to be done.

This column was published by GateHouse Media, 7/16/2019 and in The Patriot Ledger.

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Suzette Standring

SUZETTE MARTINEZ STANDRING is a nationally syndicated columnist with GateHouse Media. Her two award winning books, The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets from Top Op-Ed Columnists (2014) and The Art of Column Writing (2008) are used in journalism courses such as Johns Hopkins University. Suzette is a past president of The National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and the host of It’s All Write With Suzette, a cable TV show about writing. Visit www.readsuzette.com or email suzmar@comcast.net
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