As I write from an upstairs home office, I can see the weeds, each day appearing more robust than the day before. A variety of them abound — thick, tall ones reaching more than two feet, and pointy, prickly ones spreading as definitive tuffs across the yard. There are sticker bushes and vine-like crawlers fighting for space, too.
Every morning timed sprinklers nourish the weeds’ thirst and accelerate their growth. One enterprising weed even broke through the asphalt in front of the house to caress a white Subaru that hasn’t moved in months. There are people, decades younger than me, who live in the house. They emerge most days via car or motorcycle, zooming off as if in quick retreat.
The weeds weren’t there when we moved to this neighborhood a few months ago. Back then, the house didn’t have weeds. It appeared like any other house in our sightline. What’s happened? Is something wrong? Do they need help or just hate lawn work? As encroaching weeds multiply, a neighborly balance of honoring others’ privacy while offering support is emerging, and I’m certain these garden variety weeds will be resolved soon.
But not all weeds are so easily seen or resolved. Many of us have periodic or chronic personal weeds that aren’t as visible. Anything from self-doubts to toxic relationships with things or people. That kind of weed can suck our life-energy, entangling us in its roots while thriving for years. Some try to ignore them, stamp them down, hide them, or deceive others about them.
There are social media users who post perfect-life, great-vacation, having-a-wonderful time pictures, while what’s really happening with them doesn’t match. A perfect selfie won’t change weeds of anger, broken trust, fear, depression, or overwhelmed-ness. Nor will pretending you don’t have any weeds in your life. We all have them; life is full of weeds. The difference is when and how we acknowledge and handle them.
Some people advocate that our weeds should be transparently shared, that it’s good to “hang it all out there” — one problem, issue, or “weed” after another — as if life is a reality show to be broadcast on any open channel. But that kind of “sunlight” doesn’t kill weeds, it often boosts their growth. That doesn’t mean our weeds should never be shared, but how and with whom does matter.
I’ve had my share of life-weeds; I still do. Early on I tried hiding them, but that didn’t work. Turns out personal weeds grow heartiest when we’re not honest with ourselves about ourselves; when we live from the outside in instead of the inside out; and when magical thinking enables us to believe “it’ll be okay” when reality screams the opposite. I discovered that allowing my weeds to thrive never turns out okay for me. What does is to own them, and attack their roots well before they can worm themselves into my well-being.
In the scheme of things we all have houses with weeds. Some are found in our heads or hearts, others in our actions, habits, or relationships. Weeds grow fast if we water them with critical self-talk, irrational fears, wishing and hoping, victim-thinking, group think, or self-deception. Like that neighborhood house, they’ll take us over if we don’t persistently control and manage them. So remember, in the words of author Harvey Mackay: “Don’t water your weeds!”