From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Weeds in My Garden

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.

Gail Sheehy

I stared at my garden on an early fall day, stunned by its overgrown weedy appearance. My thoughts drifted to springtime when I planted the cool, moist soil and watched with anticipation as new life emerged, tender green stems and pastel-colored buds. In the bright and warm summer, the colors and smells of my garden became vibrant and provided a harvest for the senses. Now, as the days cooled, and the thrill of my new garden faded with the summer colors, it occurred to me that I too was in the autumn of my life. This change of season had brought its own weeds to my days and nights such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, memory lapses, and sleepless nights.

I knelt in the soil with stiff, achy joints, gloved hands ready to battle the ugly, ragged plants that had invaded my plot. I do love this time of year when the air becomes crisp and the nagging sounds of cicadas have disappeared, leaving only the quiet chirping of birds and crickets. I grabbed hold of the first pesky weed, pulled it, and tossed it over to a small pile. I assailed the demons of my garden for several moments before I looked around and felt overwhelmed by the task at hand. I wanted my garden to be clean and fresh again, without autumn’s unattractive overgrowth. I closed my eyes and inhaled the cool air. In my fresh meditative state, I heard wind chimes tinkling in the distance, while all around me I smelled lingering herbs. My mantra began: One weed at a time, one weed at a time, one weed at a time.

As I crawled along the ground, I slowly made my way down each formless row. My weed pile became bigger and bigger, assurance that I may yet win the battle. I continued to compare the garden and autumn to this stage in my life and saw the irritating, uncomfortable, sometimes ugly symptoms of menopause as weeds. They too were thorny and unwanted and at times threaten to overtake my life, like my flower garden. I smiled inside as I recognized the weeds of menopause must also be controlled, one weed at a time.

I came upon the green pointed leaves of an iris, its purple bloom of summer long dried and faded. I remembered watching my grandmother in her garden of irises, roses, zinnias, and daisies. Every morning and evening she bent over to pull a weed here, pull a weed there. The fresh flowers she kept on her kitchen table through the spring and summer always added brightness to the conversations that took place over coffee each morning.

Although I loved Grandma’s flower patch, as a child I never really understood how she could spend so much time pulling weeds. Now I smiled as I realized Grandma’s good, full life was as filled with rich,multicolored blooms as was her garden. And like her garden, her life was not free of its ugly or unpleasant pieces, yet she kept those weeds under control, choosing instead to be thankful for the flowers in her life. When Grandma died, family members harvested seeds and bulbs from her garden and planted them in their own gardens. I looked forward to seeing the purple blooms of Grandma’s irises every summer.

One weed at a time, the mound of defeated weeds grew, and the flowers remaining in the garden came back into focus. My garden was filled with brilliant yellow marigolds—my marriage; purple and pink impatiens—my son and daughter; crisp red begonias—my health.

Spring and summer may have passed, but in my garden, still full of lovely flowers, it’s a matter of pulling one weed at a time.

Jan Morrill

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