When Enough is Enough

By Cecilia Nasti

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. —Annie Dillard

Remember January when you made those promises, a.k.a. resolutions? Mid-year is a good time to take stock and review your progress. Unfortunately, for a growing number of us, this evaluation process results in emotional and intellectual self-flagellation for allegedly falling short, or being otherwise deficient, in thought, word and deed during the previous months. Somehow our many accomplishments throughout this time period pale in comparison to our glaring perceived failures.


A thread of regret that comes up in conversations I have with gardeners involves the feeling of not having done enough. We believe we should, for example, be able to install the irrigation system, design, dig and plant the new perennial border, grow a bumper crop of tomatoes, and remedy all pest and disease problems... in one weekend. This scenario may be an exaggeration, but for some of you, not so much.

In a society that’s elevated multi-tasking to a saintly virtue, and considers its members slackers if they’re unwilling, or unable, to incorporate more responsibilities into days that never grow longer to accommodate them, is there anyone among us who escapes the feeling of inadequacy?

Is there no place for those of us who are more comfortable, happier, and, dare I say, more productive starting and finishing one task at a time? When did enough stop being enough?

So, to my gardening friends who may harbor feelings of inadequacy, I say let it go. We retreat to our gardens for peace and solace, not for painful reminders of our supposed short-comings.

Make friends with the feral nature of your garden and with your time. Focus on what needs your attention most, or what is easiest to accomplish in the time you have. Even a small success is still a success; few things provide the necessary motivation for the next task as the fresh feeling of a job well done on the previous task. If you managed to enjoy the process, start to finish, even better.

Why is it that time to acknowledge success never makes it to our to-do lists? I don’t know about you, but I want to feel exhilarated after I finish something, not physically and mentally drained.

If you need permission to slow down, consider it granted.

I know it’s blasphemy to suggest we do less and enjoy ourselves more—in the garden and in life. After all, wouldn’t giving in to that kind of thinking and behavior align us more closely with... say...the French and their self-indulgent, month-long vacations, rather than with our fellow, selfless, never-enough-time-for-a-long-vacation-because-we’re-so-busy Americans? Sacre bleu!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying multi-tasking is evil, or doesn’t have its place. When it occurs organically, if you will, it can actually be enjoyable.

Some people are wired for hard-driving, do-it-all-at-once, finish-it-now gardening and life multi-tasking. I am in awe of those people, and have great respect for their abilities. Honestly, though, I’m not one of them. Chances are, neither are you. And you know what? It’s okay. We get things done in our own way and on our own terms.

So, however you get things done, as you consider your master to-do list for the remainder of the year, remember to pencil-in time for joy.