She was talking as much about life, as one’s own lawn, and was working to implement this bit of wisdom in hers – lawn and life. She would literally pull weeds from her yard for up to eight hours at a time. She worked equally hard to pull the “weeds” from her life, made more difficult by her circumstances. She was the only survivor of five children of a single mom and never knew her father. She never married or had any children of her own. Her last living relative had been dead for over twenty-five years, plus she was under treatment for a life-threatening illness and lived alone on a fixed income. If anyone was vulnerable to the “weeds” of fear, self-pity, futility, bitterness and despair, it was her.
Yet she was one of the most energetic and vibrant persons I’d ever met. She filled her life with relationships and activities that kept her revitalized. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing in her seventies, not for the purpose of working in nursing but to experience learning and student life. She coordinated the Neighborhood Caring Network for a two-block section surrounding her house. She actively participated in her faith community, cared for at least three rescue dogs, and regularly talked with distressed strangers wherever she encountered them.
What were some of the “weeds” that wanted to occupy space in her life? One was perfectionism: she would beat up on herself mercilessly if she made a mistake or didn’t complete a task. Another was a preoccupation with others to the neglect of herself: she would get so busy that she would forget to eat, take her medication and sleep at the appropriate time. She would focus so much on her “to-do” list that she didn’t relax, meditate, read her Bible, pray, and engage in many other activities that would be restful, enjoyable, encouraging, and restorative for her. (“I just don’t have time.”) Anxiety about “what ifs” would often blind her to positive possibilities and resources readily available to her. The absence of family support often triggered moments of loneliness that were almost suffocating at times.
I think of Lillian often and the numerous challenges she worked so hard to overcome. Whenever “weeds” appear in our own lives, may we, like Lillian, respond with a stubborn determination to remove them by “planting and cultivating” what we want and need in our lives.
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SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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