Pep Talk

As you all know, I’ve created a goal for myself this summer: to completely redo my yard. I’ve determined the five specific things I want to get done and even outlined the steps I need to take to get there. This week, I bought the tools I needed to get started and I got to work. I’ve spent about five hours (of concentrated work time) in the backyard over the last three days and so far I’ve accomplished this:

photo-163That is about 55 sq ft of cleared space. I have about 45 sq ft left on this stretch and then about 300 sq ft in the middle and another 100 sq ft on the other side (plus another 100 sq ft along the back that I’m not trying to clear this summer). All of it needs to be cleared. And clearing it requires an incredible amount of difficult but mind numbingly boring work. I can’t tell you how slowly that 55 sq ft of overgrown grass was pulled up. It literally takes me an hour to get through a 10 sq ft section. Every time I look at the 300 sq ft middle square my heart drops. I just can fathom how I’m going to pull up all the dead grass and weeds and then amend the soil (I learned that word at the nursery today! Slowly I’m becoming a real gardener.) before I actually plant the ground cover. And of course, when I plant the ground cover it will just be little ground cover seedlings planted a foot apart for months until they grow together. That is assuming they actually even grow.

The whole thing just feels incredibly overwhelming. I honestly don’t know if I have it in me to do it all.

I’m the kind of person who fixates on a project I’ve started. Once I take those first steps I want to do it all the time; it’s hard for me to stop and do other thing when I know there is so much more to accomplish. Every time I look outside those last 45 sq ft taunt me, reminding me of all I still have to do. I pretty much can’t work on other things while I know how much more there still is to do outside.

And yet, the task awaiting me in the backyard feels too big. I just don’t think I can do it. It will literally take all summer for me to pull up all the grass, amend the soil and plant new things. All fucking summer. And even if I get it all done, I have no idea if the plants will thrive. All this hard work might be for naught.

Today, as I was washing dishes, I glanced out at the backyard and felt my heart just sink. I considered just abandoning the whole enterprise; it literally felt impossible. Then I reminded myself that I had just started, that I still have 7 weeks to work back there, that if I persist it will get done, slowly but surely.

As I was giving myself that pep talk, I was suddenly reminded of how overwhelmingly impossible our secondary infertility diagnosis felt, just six months ago. I remember how long the six months of no caffeine/alcohol/dairy/wheat/sugar diet seemed, especially with a husband that was only following it begrudgingly, and with a significant amount of resentment. We weren’t sure how much we could save for treatments that summer or if those treatments would even be worth spending our money on. We were just starting to dip our toes into the deep pool of acceptance, beginning to imagine our life with just one child. I were also exploring foster adoption, even though I guessed Mi.Vida would never feel comfortable going down that road.

The whole thing felt impossibly overwhelming and there were many days I cried myself to sleep, unsure we could do it.

And then every morning I woke up and did what I had to do, no matter how hard it was, no matter how impossible it felt.

If I could do that, I can do this. Sure it will take forever. Sure my muscles will hurt and my palms will scream and my back will ache and my mind will beg me to do something more interesting. Sure it will be tedious as all fuck, and there will be moments I just need to throw down my tiller (I’ve already broken two by the way, tomorrow will be the first morning I don’t need to exchange a busted one for an in-tact model) and go the fuck inside to take a break. There will be times I walk away from the yard feeling super disappointed by how little I’ve accomplished, but there will also be days I am proud of what I have done.

And maybe, just maybe, at the end of the summer, I will have a backyard I can take pride in, a space I want to spend time in, that feels like an extension of my home.

Have you ever started a project that later felt too overwhelming to complete? Did you keep going or abandon the attempt?

5 responses

  1. Um. Yes. My novel. Which was in my mind the culmination of my professional life. To realize it was so overwhelming and that I just couldn’t finish it at least not given what else is on my plate was devastating.

    What helped me is to reframe a little –just as you have done here. I am still writing in small ways, I have not abandoned it entirely, I have to balance, of course, other things I have to do which are considerable. If I could devote myself only to that one thing… That would be another story (And I would be 26 again)

    I was not a gardener when I started six years ago. It has taught me so much. In some ways it’s a practice not unlike yoga– You clear the beds, you amend the soil, you yank the weeds and you yank more weeds and you plant things to see what takes… something will! and there’s no end perfection there’s just the doing.

    Looking back at all that hard work will be a reward for a long time. Changing the landscape is no small thing. Natures a tenacious beast!

    I’m impressed by all your hard work. I remember how backbreaking it is to tear up the sod.



  2. I am a HUGE believer that sometimes hiring help makes the difference and makes things possible. In Costra Costa County there are place you can hire Day Laborers who work hard for an hourly rate that IS affordable. Ask at your local nursery or teen rec center. The day loborers I have hired have been nice hard working people who were very kind about my lack of anything beyond sign and Sesame Street Spanish. For the basic back breaking pulling of weeds and first digging of California Clay hard baked dirt ……. totally a good plan. They will even not laugh if you work next to them as part of the job.

  3. When I first moved in with J and he started moving dirt for our future house with his dad “brushing” was a task left to me, his mom and his brother every weekend. This is where you remove dead foliage from 50 acres so that when your property insurance gets canceled every summer you have a chance in hell of getting it back again.
    WEEKS. It took WEEKS to see a glimpse of a change. Then my husband and his dad had a free day and using backhoes and bulldozers and chainsaws they did more than we ever dreamed of doing.
    The moral of this story? Fuck the outdoors. If you don’t have someone use heavy equipment while reigning in Mother Nature it’s just not worth doing. Lame.
    I sincerely hope you have better luck then I did.

  4. Totally second the suggestion of a day laborer. It’s amazing (and surprisingly affordable) to see how much a professional can get done in a day. And you speak excellent Spanish, so major bonus there.

    You’ve already made some great progress. I think continuing to tackle defined areas will make a huge difference, because there will be areas of loveliness you can see which will make you happy and motivated to keep on keeping on.

  5. Wow, I’m way impressed! It does seem like a massive project, but you’re already making progress on it. And breaking it down into smaller pieces seems like a really good plan.

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