How’s your summer going?

How are your tomatoes doing???

The summer of 2022 has been monumental for me. I retired from the day job I work only to find that I am busier and have a much more purpose filled life now.Life is always filled with lessons and take away to build a better life and this summer has been that.

I planted a big garden with high hopes for an abundant and rich harvest. Some things are overwhelmingly wonderful and others I am reminded that while we can do everything right it may not always turn out right. But here is why I decided to write a little post. I have a addiction to scrolling through Instagram feeds that feature lush gardens and well curated images. Instagram can be very surprising because it is a very limited perspective that tries to maximize what is displayed. Like the filters that they’re famous for, the life displayed is well curated, no flaws, only perfection. Truthfully that’s not always honest. Bugs eat cabbage, deer eat hosta and just about anything they can get. And sometimes it’s just epic fail – either the wrong variety was planted, some disease cropped up, the weather didn’t want to play nice or it just didn’t work out for one reason or another.

I love that the garden is always a blank canvas filled with ideas to think through my life and lessons to learn. Old familiar vegetable friends like tomato plants and pepper surprised me when they either overwhelm me with joy at their wonderful productivity or baffled me with their disappointment. I spent half the winter planning the details of the garden and thinking everything out. And sometimes those plans fall off the rails and don’t bring what we had hoped. It’s a lot like life isn’t it?.

When I was a teenager I had no idea what I wanted to do for my life. I knew that art was always an important part of what I am but I listen to the voices of those who are older and wiser and told me that I couldn’t make a living on my art. I chose other things. I first majored in social work in my undergrad years only to discover that I don’t have a hard enough skin to deal with the many different difficulties that social work brings. In fact I had such a bad experience when I was doing my field practice and I dropped out of college. I took a job just to make money and pay bills and I hate to say I spent the next 40 years doing the same thing. I work for others, suppress my art and creativity That has been in me all along. It was a craving to use the talents I have been given to better the world. It is called right work. But instead I did the corporate America thing, dancing around politics, and the varying levels of leadership, biases, attitudes, and being pressed into a mold where there was no place for creativity because it triggered someone’s insecurity, or defied the lockstep mindset. That is not right work-it’s a paycheck with benefits, which can go away if those above you don’t value your corporate posture, or work skills.

Drawing from my garden analogy it was a lot like planting a tomato in the shade. Sure that plant will grow and produce leave and maybe there’s enough sunlight to actually Cause the plant to bear fruit but the harvest will never be what it could be if that plant were put in the sunlight and given freedom to soak in all of that wonderful sunshine during the day. I realized in 2010 When I lost my job at the hospital that I was a tomato plant in the shade. I was being limited on what I could become due to the toxic conditions of health care. Personalities injected fear, anxiety, or overloaded with strong passive aggressive personalities. But that total crisis of unemployment was a gift. An awakening to realize I was a tomato planted in shade…. And here was my opportunity to move to a sunny spot.

My garden will tell you if you listen that if you abuse plants or neglect them or forget to water them or don’t feed them with fertilizer and got not give them what they need they won’t be as glorious as the potential they have in them. The plant will do everything it can to grow, but wrong conditions will definitely reduce the potential. I was an underfed drought condition tomato plant in the shade.

And thinking about the next 12 years after leaving that job at the hospital I’m realizing that for a number of those Years I worked a job For the paycheck, to pay bills and to survive. It was during these 12 year Steve and I started our Soap making and silk painting business. For both of us it was like being tomato plants moved into Wonderful soil and great sunshine. Under the crucible of needing to generate revenue to pay bills, and the freedom to use talents we began to grow, to boldly stretch, nurtured with encouragement, and motivated to bring fruit to the world. Our business, and all of the wonderful people who have cheered us on were the ideal condition for bearing fruit. Neither of us are drought conditioned tomatoes in the shade any more. We are finding our stride, growing strong and offering the gift of our fruit to the world.

The greatest gift that the summer of 2022 has offered me has been the realization that if I let go of fear, and take my hand off that hold I had on a corporate income and benefits that there is a new found freedom allows me to do right work. Sure we’re little bit more frugal because I am retired but it’s all for freedom to see how we can make a better business, a stronger business, seeking new ways to continue to find our tribe, and bless you who encourage us.

I never thought I would be able to retire early and even the financial advisors warned against it but we’re making it work.

What are the takeaways to the story?

  • If you are young follow your inner voice on what brings you joy in earning an income. They say if you do what you love it’s like being on vacation every day.
  • Let doubt, questioning and dispute go. Boldly lean into the next chapter of your life with confidence and courage.
  • Heal the past, but don’t live there. We can all say that we’ve had chapters of our life that were disappointing like tomatoes growing in the shade but we can also say that there were chapters that were filled with wonder and joy. Don’t dwell on those situation or people that took you for granted, Or had no idea of the potential you offered, but chose to judge based on a very biased insight into life. It’s their loss. I love the expression I’ve been hearing often lately: “meet people where they are, but know that some people have to be left there.” It’s really OK to move on and find new ground.
  • Actively work at determining what is your right work. Right work means a job that you are designed for, your skills and talents bring out only the best in the situation and deep inside your soul there’s a peace because you’re doing what you love and what brings you joy
  • Dare to be bold and defy the naysayers who tell you you can’t do things. Have courage and a deaf ear to those who have told you (whether to your face, or behind your back) That you don’t have what it takes to be successful. I have to admit that I finished my masters degree in college as an act of defiance against those voices that told me I was not college material. The funny thing is I finished my masters with an A minus average. In the current chapter I have to tell you they have been people who told me they didn’t think I would survive being retired or they expected me to fall apart not having that 9 to 5 purpose. I have my father‘s stubborn temperament because never tell me what I can’t do. To be honest with you underneath it all there is sometimes a scared little child that isn’t really sure of the situation but history has shown that if I lean into the fear I can become paralyzed and do nothing. So I lean into the stubborn determination that you can’t tell me what I want to do is impossible because it is possible, watch me!!!
  • And the final points my garden has taught me is that it’s all in the perspective of your mind. If you look at things in a negative light they’ll always be negative but if you live in the here and now You will see glimpses of joy, and hope, of kindness, of passion and you will flourish, grow and bear much fruit. Choose a good perspective, nurture it and never let anyone tell you what is possible for you.

Choose to grow… find your right work and lean into the work itself…and you will grow well. Here is to wishing you sunshine, and abundant fruit.