My Grandma’s Garden
In life we all experience disorienting moments. Moments that change our lives. For ever. Often it is the moments that happen early in life that change the course of our lives forever. One of those moments was my grandparents divorce. For as long as I could remember, my brother and I would go to my grandparents farm on the weekend. They lived about a 45min drive from our house. To get there we had to drive through the rural Manitoba prairies. We drove about 15 minutes down the main highway, turned off at a small town called LaBroqurie, Manitoba. Very soon we were on the dirt roads headed towards Grandma and Grandpas farm. When we passed the big red barn, I always had a special sensation that passed through me. It was my landmark that let me know that our trip to a very special place was nearing completion.
One year, I remember passing by the big red barn after a tornado had passed through. The front of the barn was intact, and it looked like all was well. When we drove past the barn, it was a different story. The tornado had ripped the back wall of the barn completely off of the structure. Just gone. It was no small feat as the barn stood at least 50 feet high 50 feet wide.
As we passed the barn and the wreckage the tornado caused, my thoughts naturally turned to the farm. Were we going to be greeted by my Uncle’s dog chopper, did my grandma make Sex In A Pan? (A chocolate treat using miracle whip and breadcrumbs). My grandpa always told us it was called “The Triple Chocolate Treat”, but it never takes kids long to pick up on these kinds of things. Does it?
I loved my grandparents farm because it was always an adventure. I suppose life on the farm is what first got me started on adventure. We’d climb the ladder to get into the hayloft, swing around on the ropes hanging in the barn, hunt gophers, ride tractors, bale hay, milk cows and weed in the garden. The list goes on.
My grandparents had this big old hide-a-bed in the living room. On the way there we we passed the giant cactus and the grandfather clock in. There were always stacks of National Geographic laying around the house. Often, before crawling into bed, we would go out and have a bonfire with our grandparents.
We would often hold a stick in the fire until it burst into flames. It was great fun to pull the stick out and extinguish the flames as we waved it in the air. The glowing embers would trace a path through the black prairie sky. We caught fireflies, cooked hotdogs and drank sodas. We’d laugh and tell stories, and best of all, make s’mores.
When our grandparents got tired, we were shuffled off to bed. I loved walking past that grandfather clock. I also loved every moment that we spent on my grandparents farm.
Looking back, the barn that survived the tornado was in many ways an apt description of the farm I dearly loved. As a child all I saw was the front of the barn. There comes a time though when the back of the barn comes into view. For me that time came when my mom announced that my grandparents were getting divorced.
An event like grandparents separating is always a life changing event. In many ways, my path through life found me as a result. It caused me to question the dynamics between men and women. I started to consider why relationships fail and what does it mean to be a man or a woman. I have memories of my grandparents loving each other. At some point they stopped and chose different paths.
Likewise, I watched my parents fall out of love and descend into an emotionally chaotic and volatile environment. This led to three decades of deep personal work. What I realized very quickly is that history repeats, most relationships fail, and that we enter relationships with people who match our patterns. When we encounter challenge in a relationship it is easy to live in the world of who is right and who is wrong. The truth is simpler than who is right and who is wrong.
In a relationship that has endured time, there are repeating patterns that set up in the relationship. The repeating patterns are a source of tension in the relationship. Over time, these patterns will cause people to close up and cut themselves off from each other. It is perfectly normal and human for people to blame each other for the patterns. The truth is, those patterns existed before the relationship started. They simply emerged or surfaced as the relationship progressed.
The reality is that the issues that occur in a relationship start with the ancestors. So if the issues in a relationship existed before the relationship started, how can it be an issue of right and wrong? So often in my life I have lived in the world of right and wrong. Life is teaching me that there is a third option. The option of being real.
I heard a quote from Rumi that is dearly loved and not entirely understood. It’s fair to say that holds true for myself, and many others as well.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.
Life is teaching me that realness is more potent than rightness and wrongness. When repeating patterns arise, it is powerful to step back, pause and reflect. If the relationship is such that we can fully reveal ourselves to the other person, the pattern can be broken. If we can invite the other person to fully reveal themselves in the situation, the pattern can be broken. I believe that this may be what Rumi is speaking of in the above quotation. It is a courageous act to fully reveal yourself.
It is through this practice of self revelation that we are able to remove the weeds from our inner world. As we do we become less reactive, more responsive and more creative. There is a vibrancy that comes with maintaining our inner world, our gardens.
It is a vulnerable and intimate thing to share why and how you are showing up in the midst of a challenge or conflict. It is raw and real to state how one is feeling. Yet that can be the most transformative path through a challenge. In a world where the problem started before you met, how does it change the relationship when we slip through the fight or flight response? What happens when we take a deep breath and drop into realness? Out between right doing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I’ll be weeding there.