Spring is in full swing and that means weeding, both literally and metaphorically. For those of us with yards the warm weather equals an explosion of invasive, high-climbing weeds. The tall stalks shade all the good things growing underneath. Buttercup is my main enemy and if I let it, the plant takes over everything. The pervasive weed is like a monoculture that chokes out everything else. I could say, "oh, screw it!" I could let the little garden turn wild like a field. Then chaos wins and all the annuals I worked so hard to cultivate get overrun. It’s a big, ugly mess.
The garden of our life also requires a spring cleaning. There are many things that I’ve had to weed out of mine. One of the main tasks is weeding out negativity. Thoughts and feeling that are negative grow like kudzu in June. They creep over everything and once those bad thoughts and feelings root they spread. As they spread they’re harder and harder to eliminate. Eliminating the harsh thoughts and poison ideas popping up is easier when that task is performed consistently. Weeding out the negative self-talk before it envelopes your garden is a key factor for stable mental health. It’s a rough time when I get down in the weeds. I can’t see what’s good underneath I just feel like bad things are taking over.
A big part of the work is simply believing it can be done.
I like to misquote the Yankee great, Yogi Berra who didn’t really say, half of baseball is 90% mental. What Yogi did say for sure is, "I never said most of the things I said."
The weeding out is a process that also includes separating out one’s own bad behaviors. I sometimes catch myself falling into unhealthy actions that are counterproductive. Regressive things that I know not to do. Firing up the chainsaw in sandals. Drinking coffee till noon and then switching to beer. Subscribing to Comcast when I should get Hulu and Netflix. While negative thoughts and feelings can be spotted and eradicated, it’s important to see how old ideas effect actions. I caught myself thinking negative things about myself like, I’m not a very good person inside so I don’t deserve the convenience of low cost on-demand media. If I’d weeded out that bad though I would have acted to untether from basic cable by now. Instead I suffered through reruns and a 98 minute Avengers movie slated to run over three hours.
Finally, weeding is more than thoughts and feelings and actions. Weeding out includes people, too. Some folks are just plain toxic: the family member who can only criticize, the romantic partner who fails to show you any respect, the condescending friend with nothing good to say. Over the years I have weeded all of these people out of my life. Because of family loyalties or the inertia of relationships we often endure these toxic people for the sake of some greater institution. We want to feel friendship or kinship or the promise of acceptance. Start assessing how these people truly make you feel. If the answer is terrible or worse, it’s time to think about weeding them, too. It’s hard to weed out people. Within the family it's called going No Contact (NC). But in time the satisfaction of taking control of your emotional life and improving your self-esteem is a far greater reward than the loss of the relationship.
I had a buddy since way back. We grew up together and went to the same college and I even introduced him to his wife. He helped me a lot when I was in need. He’s a good guy.
Time passed and we moved away and I made calls to check up on him. Months would go by and I’d call again to check. Years would go by and I’d call again. But he never once called me. Oh well, some people aren’t phone people. Recently I’ve had a lot of business in a city near his house. It’s about an hour for him to get to the city. It takes me over three hours, sometimes six if the trains are delayed. Twice I’ve been to the city and said, hey come meet me and I'll buy us some beers and we can catch up. I give him days and weeks of advance notice. Twice he’s been too busy.
He’s not toxic but it’s clear that he really doesn’t give a damn about me. I try to be his friend and he won’t lift a finger to reciprocate which makes me feel bad. But why should I think bad about myself when he’s the one that turned rude? I weeded that bad thought. Also, why should I keep calling and engaging when I get nowhere with him? I weeded out those actions. Finally, I weeded him out as a person. I’ve been down to the city two more times and I don’t concern myself with him. He’s just another weed and not a positive person for my life anymore. At least I got my flowers.