In The Weeds

“The best things in life are nearest:  Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.”  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

      Sometimes simple sounds simple in theory but is not quite so simple at all. This is a recurring theme lately, proving itself to be true in nearly every corner and groove of life. There are cookbooks collecting dust in an abandoned cupboard. They promised sweet things like “quick and easy” recipes “fast dinners”, and simple meals for the simple cook. Not simple enough, I say, to keep the men of the household from gagging and the lady of the kitchen from wanting those forty-seven minutes of pot-stirring back. There are trainers clad in sports bras yell-counting from my TV screen. I believe their muscled guarantees that this is the simple way to a rocking derriere. It takes a set of squats and heavy arm curls. It takes that moment of panic when I cannot return to the standing position and unlock my worried elbows for me to understand that this is nothing if not very,very complicated. 

    Of course there  are self-imposed directions to Easy Street as well. I assure myself that daunting tasks are not so scary after all, and I am capable of all things all the time. I will complete a hefty yard makeover during baby’s thirty-minute nap. I will clean the ever-loving dust from this house until the floors shine and the ceiling fans waft gusts of bleachy air. I will “whip up” a meal so savory that the “only thing she makes for dinner is reservations” joke will be cast on some other, less crafty domestic failure. I will live simply… simply awesome.

      It took a near-fatal bout of weeding for me to find the answer to life’s most basic question:


     I casually informed the toddler that I would be weeding “real quick”. I would “knock it out” and “be done in a minute”. Weeding, the simple act of pulling uninvited guests from one’s flowerbeds, is as basic a job as breathing, I concluded. I could tackle this easy peasy chore without breaking a sweat.

But out came the sun bringing to light my secret ability to sweat like a lumberjack in a parka. I did, in fact, break a lot of sweat and probably my knee as I performed an acrobatic twist to pluck a gnarly root while simultaneously kicking dry leaves from the soil. And then there were thorns. There were piles of deceased leaves heaped in burial mounds under the bushes. There were weeds tangled under weeds sprouting along a woven surface of weeds which neighbored weeds and more weeds. Tapestry of weeds told the story of a gardener’s demise.


    The first hour mark was met with a few tears disguised as debris in my eyes and a two-by-three foot patch of earth torn to pieces. Just as I’d spent so many hours wielding a mop or a spatula, the thought came flooding back: Surely I am further along. Surely more’s been done here. I was awash in my own failure, feeling that the effort-to-results ratio was tilting towards the latter by one million and two percent. I forged ahead, unable to let myself off the hook. I would complete my simple task, even after learning that there was no simple to be found.

     Five hours and thirty-six minutes later, I slumped against the garage door. My yard looked remarkably weedless, but still filled with dirt and not at all like the After shots of those yards shown on television. There were still trees that needed trimming, monkey grass to be fluffed, and a slew of other simple tasks to be checked off my list. As I dug mulch from my belly button and wondered if I had time to cry before making dinner, Life asked a question of me:


    Humph. And Humph. You got me, Life. Girl, you really got me. That night I made a list of stresses that were surprisingly meant to be simple.


1. Cleaning

2. Cooking

3. Interacting With Humans

4. Parenting

5. All Life

 I found that my List of Simple had fallen victim to my need to overdo, to perfect and win. I had sucked the simple out of every ounce of daily life and sat in shock and wonder as to how this little life of mine could feel so overwhelming. Simple is as stupid doesn’t. And I doesn’t. A more accurate list of my ordinary life reveals the truth:


1. Cleaning: Must clean all the things in no time. Must have perfect house because perfect house is now my full-time job. I miss my desk, my name tag, and the office cleaning lady.

2.  Cooking: Must feed the entire family. All mouths watching. Better not food poison folks. How do you boil an egg?

3. Interacting With Humans: I feel awful for not remembering to wear a bra so I will assume you are noticing my lack of support as you try to make small talk with me. I will feel the need to win you over with a joke or maybe a flowery compliment to distract you from my wild bosom. I’m breaking out in hives because I forgot all my good jokes and can’t stop insecurely staring at my own, free-falling tatas.

4. Parenting: Your nap-schedule is off and now you want to go to sleep too early without eating anything. This is probably because the supper I cooked for you was inedible and I can feel your little baby eyes judging me and I’m so sorry you got stuck with the mom who forgets your sleep habits and serves you mushy peas.

5. All Life: The feeling of failing before I’ve even gotten started.

     Neurotic, no? I chased Simplicity and sought out Easy and Calm by strangling Life within an inch of its, well, life. Much to the relief of a tense house and mutilated yard, I actively deactivated my weekend. I informed my mandatory Jog that there would be only walking, leisurely strolling, really, and I would celebrate my lack of heightened heart rate by singing along with the iPod. Supper spat smoke from the griddle. I dumped it down the sink and fed my child a hand-bought corn dog. Instinctively, I rushed for a broom before releasing my death-grip from its handle, sparing the crumbs so they might live to dirty things up another day. I told my hair products to kindly shove it, opting instead to let the grizzly mullet fall as she may. I sat, plump-baby-smelling-of-artificial-beef-product-in-my-lap, and we stared with easy eyes.

We watched the weeds grow.




40 thoughts on “In The Weeds

  1. Stress. I went from rich chestnut brown hair to white(skipped salt and pepper, gray and silver). Had mini heart attacks for a decade but did not seek treatment. Then a few bigger baby heart attacks hit in 2006 for that triple by-pass. Now I do every task I can with a limit and finish the list the next day. It has been very liberating. I still worry about things, but do not run away. Try to bring closure to all things whether it is good or unpleasant but at least it is done. It works. The worst for me was raising teenagers in drug invested Miami.

  2. I’m always completely appalled at the things in life that should be mindlessly easy but turn into world class ordeals. This morning,I took a slug of coffee. It entered a nasal canal yet-to-be discovered by medical science. Coffee started pouring out of one nostril. I’m afraid to face the rest of the day.

  3. I know just how you feel! Even the little things can seem overwhelming when you are a card-carrying member of overachievers anonymous. I constantly remind myself that being a SAHM is a full-time job, and self-imposed deadlines are the devil sometimes!!

  4. Good for you, Tori. There’s already so much pressure around us, I think it’s an incredible feat to resist self-imposing any more on ourselves. I hope you had a great weekend!

      1. “My house is dirty and I’ve haven’t touched a dish in days” Hmm…sounds like a normal day for me according to my wife. Have you guys been talking?

  5. Your post reminded me of this quote: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” – Anne Lamott

    1. Eww. You are good. Lamott is my FAVORITE and I should’ve taken this advice to heart a few years (and DIY projects) ago :)
      Thanks for the reminder. Perfectionism hardly accomplishes perfect!

  6. I can’t speak to weeds in flowerbeds (that’s the wife’s territory – I have the touch of death with flowers), but for the lawn, you need to follow my dad’s proven 2-part plan.
    1) Is it green? 2) Can the mower cut it? Okay, it’s lawn – mow it and be done!
    And if the family abuses you too much about dinner, invite me over to cook. I have, in the past, managed to dirty 2 pots, 3 pans, and a bowl just trying to boil water. Seriously. I can cook okay, but I leave a trail of destruction that an armoured division would envy. So I’ll offer to make the meal, but your family has to clean up. Trust me, they will be eternally grateful for ANYTHING you can produce! :D
    (Oh, yes, I AM banned from our kitchen for life. Wife’s orders. And I NEVER question the wife’s orders. As Jamie can attest, my wife has a samurai sword and knows how to use it. Did I mention I never question the wife’s orders?;) )

  7. Weeds are such a fitting metaphor for all the crap you have to do again and again – if not the weeding, the dishes, the diapers, the laundry. Monotony is surely the reason behind many a mother losing her mind – how clever of you to realize this so early in your career!

    1. Clever didn’t have too much to do with it! Haha! I remember stopping mid-weed and thinking I’d be really embarrassed to be found dead in the weedy flower bed from exhaustion. Can’t go out like that!

  8. That is the only good thing about taxes: you only have to do them once a year. Gosh, I wish that I only had to go grocery shopping once a year, or wash sheets & towels once a year or any of the other mundane things in life that keep needing to be done day after day after day. It’s okay to give up every once in a while and just let it be.

  9. I too love to watch the weeds grow, but must admit to failing life and forgetting to re-enroll in a section better suited to Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest! Those damn weeds just keep growing like, well, weeds!

    1. Baby likes to hit the ground with his plastic golf clubs. He just whacks at dirt for hours on end. I’ve considered replacing his toy with an electric weed trimmer, but The Mister informs me that this is a bad idea that would probably result in serious injury and Children’s Protective Services :(

  10. My husband says I turn everything into a project and it’s pretty much true. If it’s simple, I’ll find a way to make it impossible. It’s a terrible thing. I say just pretend you mean to have a weed garden. Some weeds are mighty attractive.

  11. I secretly think we live parallel lives, or at least we’re learning parallel life lessons by being smacked upside the head with an iron fist of FAIL. Let’s try (for real) (not just pretending) to keep things simple, OK? ;)

    1. I am starting simple. As I have a bad way of complicating even the easiest things, I’ve decided to just sit for a week or so. So far so good (although I think a buttcheek’s getting numb).

  12. Well grasshopper you have learned well! Sorry did I just begin and end that sentence with the same word/adverb? Don’t know because I never properly learned proper English not! However and therfore I am impressed that you take the time to beautifully desribe the simple pleasures of raising a child and doing/not doing dishes (paper plates are recyclable and leave a smallewr carbon footprint), and enjoying the inevitable progression of life. Weeds thrive and flowers take time and care!

  13. Tori–love the whole grizzly mullet and weed-watchin’ thing! So many parts I love I can’t name them all! Agree about perfectionism as being self-abuse! Since I’ve been stuck at home with painters for a week, I’ve seen how much house face-lifting I have to do. I’m going to flee today and get my mind off of it!

  14. Ah, stress. Who told us we had to be perfect anyway? If I ever meet those pushers of perfection, I will kindly punch them in the nose. It’s hard enough to try to make everything look easy with out kids–can’t imagine how hard it is with them! You’ve inspired me to give myself a little room to breathe. Maybe I WON’T do the dishes tonight. ;)

    1. You punch ’em in the nose. I’ll handle kicks to the groin! I felt silly when I realized how up-to-my-neck tense I was over things like sweeping and laundry. Sweeping. And. Laundry. Hope you take a break from dishwashing and chore doing. I’ve found the world doesn’t end when my house isn’t perfectly tidy!

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