The Nature of Nurture

I was pretty bummed last month. I went outside and realized my asparagus garden was dead.

Yeah, yeah, it's a weird thing to get bummed about. But it gave me a sense of accomplishment that not many other things in life do. From a little patch of dirt on the edge of my yard, we grew hundreds of stalks every year - more than we could eat.

The thing is, it didn't take a whole lot of effort. Water when the weather was dry. Once-a-week weeding of the overgrowth coming from the neighbor's garden. Harvesting the mature stalks and letting the rest grow all the way out.

With that little bit of effort, simply giving the garden the right amount of love and attention, every year's harvest was bigger than the last.

Then, last spring, Kristin and I essentially separated. 

She was working on her own projects, making new friends, and creating the life that she'd been craving. 

I was working a full-time job, building a business, striving to create a new life on the west coast, and trying to live with all the emotions of my life changing so much at once.

The garden stopped receiving love and attention. Weeds grew and grew some more. Rogue vines scaled the fence into the garden and as they climbed the asparagus stalks, weighed them down and dragged them back to the earth.

Winter came and went, and this spring, when the stalks would typically start popping up out of the ground everywhere, there were none to be found.

So, um, what's the point?

The garden needed nurturing to survive. Just like relationships - your relationship with your partner or kids or parents or colleagues or your hobbies, career, and business, and yes, especially yourself.

Nurture happens one day at a time, even one moment at a time.

In a relationship with a partner, you have to choose one another on a daily basis to nurture the relationship. Lots of couples lose sight of this once they add things to the mix like kids and houses and debts and new desires. 

In relationships with your kids, you've got to choose every day to be the parent they need, not the parent you feel like being.

And so on. You don't get to show up one day with a bunch of bravado and flowers, dog it for the next week, and pretend you're nurturing the relationship. 

***

What really stung about seeing the garden die out was that it was an in-my-face reflection of all the relationships in my life I stopped nurturing. 

So I did something about it and weeded the garden - filled up a couple full-size garbage cans with all the overgrowth. I didn't have any expectation that it would make anything right. But the saying goes, "how you do anything is how you do everything," and I chose right there to re-commit to nurture.

It's been a shot in the arm for every part of my life. My energy and productivity have gone back to my 20-year-old-self levels. A serendipitous 6am Monday chat led to me hiring the coach I've wanted to work with for years. I picked up a couple "joy" projects at home I'd been putting off. 

A few weeks later, 6 stalks of asparagus were popping up through the dirt. Nurture restarted the cycle of life!

The Practice

Look at one relationship in your life that's not where you'd like it to be - either with someone else, yourself, or something you do. Take a minute and write down where it's at and where you'd like it to be.

What does that relationship need from you? How will you bring that into (or back into) the relationship?

Then - and this is the most important part - make the commitment to do that.

With another person, call yourself out for not having nurtured the relationship the way you could and tell them what you'll be bringing. Be open to their feedback - maybe there's something else they need!

In a hobby or project or something else you do, commit with your calendar. Give it scheduled, uncontested time and attention on a regular basis.

I'd love to hear your experiences with this practice - email me at mike@mikefharris.com to tell me about it.

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