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Autism: Fears That Bind

12 Apr

This week, for the first time in months, my girls and I have been spending a lot of time outside. The weather is (finally) warming up – not so much that it is late in the year, but that more than most years, this one has been consistently cold and snowy. Apparently there hasn’t been as much snow as usual in the mountains surrounding us, though there has been more down here where we live. I don’t understand that. What I hear in the news is that although it seemed we got enough snow that the fire hazard this summer should be low, that might not be the case.

Anyway, things have been getting warmer, and every day the sun stays out longer. Typically this is the time of year when my depression is at its lowest, and I am filled with thoughts of gardening. I love the idea of gardening. I like planning. I like growing things. I very much want to do this well. It is a desire that has been consistent year after year since around the time my son was a toddler (not that I didn’t want to before that, but it just wasn’t possible.)

I remember the first plants I ordered for my apartment: a banana tree, African violets, a lemon tree… they lived for a while, and I dreamed of filling my place with plants. I love how homes filled with plants look. Yet I moved often during that time in my life, and the plants didn’t like the change, and didn’t survive.

Frequently the places where I lived were too dark to grow much, and one that I live in for just over a year, faced completely north. It was the nicest apartment I had lived in, and was subsidized at that, so I was only paying $200/month including heat and hydro; a pretty good deal. It was also the place where I started leaving my Christmas lights up and on until summer because it was so dark in there.

Well, I gave up that place to move from Ontario to BC. I still frequently regret that decision, but I was in my early 20’s, and didn’t understand the difficulty distance would make. After all, I could catch the plane an hour from my new home, and fly right back ‘home’ to see my family. I am an idealist, and had no concept that I might not be able to make enough money, or find enough time, or… to actually get home often enough that the distance wouldn’t be an issue.

In the 17 years since I have lived here, I have lived in two town homes (on the same strata), one rental home (with a pre-existing garden, on our church’s property) and then the house my husband and I bought together 13.5 years ago.

Every year since moving to BC I have tried to grow things. The drive is so strong that I continue in spite of my very real fears that tell me to let it go every year, and my very real struggle with having neighbours, which very frequently leaves me overwhelmed and in tears.

I continue despite the fact that year after year it becomes harder to believe I can actually be successful at this. With each year, I learn more and more that I don’t learn well. Being taught by others, or reading and researching on my own… these things don’t seem to help me. The only thing that helps is when I actually do something that works.

After years of success, I believe I am able to grow tomatoes, sunflowers, chives, and pumpkin. After all, they always worked well before – so long as I planted them early enough, and in the right places. I have also successfully grown kale, lettuce, dill, sugar peas, radish, and Swiss chard. Each year I have harvested plenty of cherries, plums, and raspberries from our yard. I can do some things, but it isn’t enough.

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I think that a lot of my issue with not being successful in my gardens isn’t time, skill, or desire – but fear. I am afraid of what the neighbours will think, so I often end up doing less than I want. I am afraid that I won’t be successful, and so buy cheap materials – cheap soil, found boards, cheap seeds… and where, if I were willing to spend the money, I would likely make it back in food – when I am afraid to spend the money to start with, I pretty much end up with little to nothing to show for it at the end of the season.

That lack of success leads me to be more afraid of my neighbours… but the fear of the neighbours also keeps me from trying since it is only in my (very visible) front yard where most things will grow. What if they don’t want it there? What if they complain? What if…

And all of these fears take this season that would break my depression that builds throughout winter away, and instead surrounds me in doubt and darkness until I can no longer see the light that brings me hope.

So as I fight my way through this month, and my thoughts fill with dreams of a garden, I pray that this year, I will overcome the fear, and build my garden for success. For only then will I truly grow.

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