This I Believe

Barbara - Berkeley, California
Entered on August 7, 2007

I believe that weeding, like good sex and strong cheese, is for grownups.

Weeds are like the boring, superficial, mind-numbing interactions I feel I can no longer afford to tolerate, because life is just too short—the empty or toxic relationships, the activities that suck my time and energy but fail to feed my soul.

I actually relish weeding—especially after a good rain, when the soil loosens its grip on the plants I want to pull out.

It’s the plants I’ve planted—like the friendships I’ve chosen to keep and cultivate—whose breathing room I want to ensure and whose soil I want to enrich. It’s to these I give liberally of the compost I’ve made of all the crazy scraps of my history, broken down into something dark and rich and filled with the Earth’s wisdom.

There I am, after a rain, my hands clothed in latex surgical gloves (I buy them by the box), which allow me to feel the roots of each plant I want to pull out. There are the bigger weeds that have established themselves over the winter, when I wasn’t paying attention. These come up out of the ground with a wonderful ripping noise as I dream dreams of creating a tapestry of color and texture, a place where hummingbirds will linger and bees will buzz and people passing by will pause to sniff the fragrant air.

Because children cannot be expected to think in the long term or to look at the big picture, I resolved long ago never to ask my son to weed. What we call the innocence of childhood is simply the child’s belief that his or her life will go on forever and ever. To the very young, weeds are of no more significance or concern than the dust and detritus of a messy house.

No, weeding is best left to those of us old enough to understand that we have a limited amount of time in which to create the very best version of ourselves that we can—and that a life, like a garden, will grow and bloom beautifully if nurtured and cared-for and protected from those pesky weeds.

And yet it is not always so simple. Sometimes a plant you’ve nurtured can turn out to be nothing but a well-disguised weed—and a weed you’ve fought can surprise you by bursting into blossom and looking quite at home among the other flowers.

The balance between ripping out weeds and protecting the plants you’ve cultivated can be as delicate as trying to hold close what’s important to you while letting go of all that is nasty, wasteful and destructive in your life. You want to root out the stuff you may have once loved, but now recognize as bad for you. But you don’t want to compromise your ability to love again with abandon.

It’s like trying to say, “This is hopeless” and “I’m still hopeful” at the same time. It’s an act of contortion and faith—and it’s for adults only.