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Thriving vs. surviving

The dream of every gardener is to have a garden that is thriving. A garden bursting with life, full of vigorous new growth, flowering and fruiting prolifically. Oh the joy of it!

However every gardener also comes, at some point, into a screeching collision with the real-life challenges of keeping a garden. Adverse weather, prolonged dry spells, insidious diseases and swarms of pests can all wreak havoc on our poor charges. Our own absence from the garden, whether due to physical ailments, competing demands or holidays, can also see our plants deprived of the care they need. At some points the best we can manage is a garden that is surviving.

For the sake of our mental health, we need to be clear about which mode we are in. When we are in the thriving mode, we can throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the task of improving our little patch, and bask in the warm glow of our success. But when we are in survival mode, the only sensible approach is to accept and adapt to this reality. There is no point bemoaning our lack of progress, raging against the universe or wallowing in a sense of failure. The situation, quite frankly, is bad enough without adding unnecessary suffering.


When we are forced into survival mode, it is far better to reduce our efforts to the bare minimum or adjust our goals to maintaining as much as we can. We may need to prioritise our resources, distinguishing between the precious or hard-to-replace, and the expendable. And then we must wait, with as much patience and grace as we can muster, until conditions become more favourable and everything can burst into life again.


As in the garden, so it is in life. There are times when we are thriving – achieving, learning, exploring, stretching and challenging ourselves. And then there are times when just getting through the day and getting a meal on the table and a load of washing done is just about all we can manage. That’s ok. Like a gardener in a drought, we just need to scale back, prioritise and dispense with the unnecessary. And never lose hope that relief will arrive...eventually. 

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