Which Secret Garden Will We Tend?

Which Secret Garden Will We Tend?

2017-08-18T13:19:56+00:00 October 26th, 2008|Dare Dream Do, Personal|

Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities; it is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend.  Sarah Ban Breathnach

Several months ago, I was on a business trip in California.

We had met with interesting and influential people, accomplished what we’d hoped to, and I couldn’t ask for better business partners.  It was a perfect business trip until…

Until a chance conversation with someone I’d known as a child.

And in the space of moment, my capable, in control-of-my-world adult self had dissolved; I was again a young girl who felt incompetent, fearful, and out-of-control.

I was undone, and terribly sad.

As I tried to make meaning of what had happened, talking it through with several of my trusted friends, it became clear I was going to have to choose how I would remember, or frame, this snippet of time.

Yes — I’d had several hours of profound sadness and loss.  But hadn’t this unexpected juxtaposition of my childhood and adult self allowed me to see my trajectory — to see who I’ve become?

Was the trip a disaster?  A success?  Both?

My choice — my secret garden.

Secretgarden

Source:  istockphoto

And what of our current economic environment, and its impact on our net present value?

Nearly all of us are worth less today than we were six months ago.   But isn’t it good to have a legitimate reason for belt-tightening, for teaching our children to prioritize.  Relatively few children in the developed world have any sense of what it’s like to scrabble and scrape, to really hunger after opportunity.

Is our forced floundering a disaster?  A success?  Both?

Our choice.

There’s a marvelous quote by Martha Beck which I’d like to share with you.  I’m ambivalent about her because she’s spoken so negatively about my faith…but in the context of this post, it would be a disservice to us all to not share what she’s written.

You get to decide…whether your toughness will look like unreachable bitterness or unstoppable resilience; your tenderness the raw vulnerability of a never-healing wound, or a kindness so deep it heals every wound it touches. Regret can be your worst enemy or your best friend. You get to decide which.

Our choice — our secret garden.

What are you going through that is difficult?   Or have gone through?  How are you framing this experience?   If a disaster, where’s the success?

In what areas of your life are you unstoppably resilient?  What experience did you have that helped you develop this resilience?

In what areas of your life, or to whom, is your kindness so deep, it heals every wound it touches?  What experience fostered that kindness?

P.S.  Several of you have mentioned that you have thoughts, but don’t want to share them in a public forum — I hope you will.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, please let me know what I can do to make this feel like a safe place?  In the meantime, perhaps you can post anonymously.

  • I loved reading this post and really pondering your words. I think in most areas of our lives we can find both the disaster AND success. I have just recently lost a baby at 20 weeks. That was a disaster. Still mourning. Where is the success in that? Here it is: my child gained her earthly body.

  • b

    Whitney,
    I just have to weigh in on this post. I felt a pang of hurt for you, what ever the reason you were wounded. At the hand of a childhood friend?
    When I am around people that have never grown up, even at the age of 66 I can be wounded all over again. The treatment I received then is still as hurtful.
    From this experience I have learned distance and forgiveness. The distance comes from moving away from the relationship. The forgiveness comes when I don’t ask my friends to sacrifice their’s to keep me happy. Kindness, I would like to think, fill the corners of the garden.
    I will say though that feeling like a child with hurt feelings is not something I will endure more that once. I am not only older…I am a great deal wiser! I do love a Secret Garden.
    b

  • Amy Jo

    Again another thought provoking post. Keep them coming! This year has been hard for me. Would it qualify as a difficulty? Not when I think of circumstances around me that are far worse. I’d like to think that the difficulties in life, when viewed with appreciation for what we’re not having difficulty with, are really successes. That is my secret garden, a choice, a perspective.

  • I just finished reading your post, and it’s a good one. It was very thought-provoking as most of them are, but this one spoke to me.
    Also, I am making progress on my dream. I recently had a great conversation with my mentor; she gave me the boost that I needed.

  • dea

    I empathize with your hurt, and so admire your soul-searching. Your experience only reinforces my decision to avoid high school reunions at all costs; in that environment I forfeit my adult identity to people who can only see me as the awkward, geeky nobody they labeled me to be. I know we were all just children then, and I absolutely forgive those who slighted and hurt me, but it’s very hard not to revert to playing old roles when confronted with old scenarios. Therefore, I protect my self-worth by keeping my distance.
    The Whitney I know and love could never be seen as “incompetent, fearful, and out-of-control”; the person who stirred up these feelings in you must not truly know you at all. Please weed this conversation out of your Secret Garden, and throw it on your personal “compost heap”. By composting such experiences, you recognize that there is “garbage” in life, but that it can be reworked for good; after a significant amount of time and proper decomposition, it may even be used to nourish and fortify your Secret Garden. Nothing beats good fertilizer!

  • EHD

    I did attend my 20th high school reunion this year (and dragged my long-suffering husband along). I dreaded it for the reasons outlined above. I didn’t want to confront my awkward teen-age self, and I didn’t want to see that self reflected in the eyes of people who had known me then. It turned out to be a healing event. Several people who had mocked me for being different (smart, morally upright girl) apologized for their treatment of me. I had harbored no lingering wounds from that treatment, but it was interesting to see that time had taught them to value the girl I once was. Also, that girl is at the root of the woman I now am, and I really like who I have become. I embody values that are strong and eternal.
    In “Reviving Ophelia” Mary Pipher writes that girls who navigate adolescence successfully (academics and healthy personal habits intact) tend to accept being perceived as quirky or different. They have a strong enough sense of self that they don’t allow the judgments of the madding crowd to shift their inner compass.
    This post reminds me of the 1905 obituary of Abigail Becker, reprinted in Toronto’s Globe and Mail in 2007:
    Farmer and homemaker born in Frontenac County, Upper Canada, on March 14, 1830.
    A tall, handsome woman “who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all,” she married a widower with six children and settled in a trapper’s cabin on Long Point, Lake Erie. On Nov. 23, 1854, with her husband away, she single-handedly rescued the crew of the schooner Conductor of Buffalo, which had run aground in a storm. The crew had clung to the frozen rigging all night, not daring to enter the raging surf. In the early morning, she waded chin-high into the water (she could not swim) and helped seven men reach shore. She was awarded medals for heroism and received $350 collected by the people of Buffalo, plus a handwritten letter from Queen Victoria that was accompanied by £50, all of which went toward buying a farm. She lost her husband to a storm, raised 17 children alone and died at Walsingham Centre, Ont.
    Whitney, you can omit the Martha Beck quotes from here on out. Really, we will forgive you! 🙂 She is a gifted writer but psychologically unbalanced, hence I have great difficulty trusting anything she says. All of her eight siblings have roundly rejected her claims of being sexually assaulted by their father (in their tiny house where they shared bedrooms). As one critic said, she has missed her true calling as a writer of great fiction.