01 September 2011

Forward in all directions

It's a hundred-plus degrees outside. Kira is waiting to go into labor with our second child at any moment. It's the tail end of the second week of school. And I just got inside from a bout of pruning the rose bushes.

How's that again?

By "pruning," I should instead say, "butchering." There is a gnarled pile of brambled branches by our curb now, and the rose bushes look markedly worse, not better, for my efforts. Did I mention that I am also a sweaty mess? Sweaty and stinky, and punctured and itchy and a little bloodied from gargantuan thorns? I am.

This is my life right now.

My entire life is that thorny bramble of tangled and knotted branches, overgrown and without order. At least, that is how it has felt for the past few months. It's been frustrating.

So I decided, this afternoon, and with things I should probably be doing (like writing or organizing papers or getting through the overfull email inbox) to take a few minutes and hack away at the lowest-priority problem on the planet at the moment, that problem being the cosmetic state of our front yard.

And yet. There I was. And it was just nonsense, I tell you. The rose bushes have become over-overgrown, with branches heading in all directions and braiding around each other. So I just started hacking and snipping, with no plan or direction other than to reduce the total amount of thick overgrowth.

The result? A four foot pile of nettled branches, large and small. And now I can see the underside of the bush, and how bad the whole job is going to be. There's a lot more to do to get these bushes back in order. It will be a multiple-attempt undertaking.

So this was a first step - wild, no plan, just jumping in and going as long as I can. Then stopping, toweling off, and going back inside, until I build up the gumption in a few days to do it again.

This is my life. These rose bushes are my life, at least for right now. Everything - school, parenting, finances, the future - is a thorny, overgrown thickness, tangled and braided from my neglect. It's a bit daunting.

But I learned something today, with those bushes. Jumping in without a plan is not a recipe for disaster (as I initially suspected). Instead, it actually allowed me to get my bearings, and to figure out the real extent of the problem. It got me started, and that's good.

I think I need to apply that approach to the rest of these thorny parts of my life right now. Dive in, hack away, towel off, do it again in a few days. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.

I have been avoiding all action, largely because I am afraid, and I don't have a good plan for anything right now. But what I just learned from the roses is that if I can at least hack at it a bit, there might be hope. For everything.

My wife jokingly calls this approach "forward in all directions." I used to be good at it. I lived the whole of my twenties that way. But of late I have been timid. Writers block and being the father of an infant has made me a bit cautious. Or maybe it gave me too much excuse to be too cautious.

Time for a bit of hacking away at things. Time for a bit of gumption.

Forward. In all directions. Towel off. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat.


Duncan Vinson said...
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Duncan Vinson said...

I was thinking much the same thing as I was working on my tomato plants. I just let them grow without much guidance, and I wound up with small, misshapen fruits down under the crown of the plant, away from the light. Rather than let each branch grow unimpeded, it's better to prune the lower suckers and let the upper branches have all of the light and nutrients. You'll get fewer, but higher quality, fruits.

My life is this way right now, too, but I suspect this is true for many of us who are trying to parent young children and keep our careers going in a down economy. At least we have tomatoes, misshapen or not.