Thursday, July 31, 2014

Zucchinis and Tomatoes

I've noticed a general dichotomy among people. It is the zucchini verses tomato dichotomy.

The first summer I planted my own garden, I did fairly well. I had three four foot long rows of corn, sweet peas, chives, tomatoes, and squash. I also tried cucumbers and some banana peppers but those didn't take. I had each veggie in its own section and used those water lines with pinholes - super easy and efficient. As the summer progressed the tomatoes were sluggish in growing so I dug trenches along the tomato plants so the water would soak the roots longer. The squash had little islands and the water generally fell around. Both did well, though I had some odd mixed-breeds of squash.

Last summer I planted another garden. Less space and no access to drip lines. All hand watered by hose and sprayer. I'd already learned that the tomatoes liked lots of water so I made sure all my plants got plenty. I learned another lesson. Due to the less space, the zucchinis did not have the same runoff area as in the first garden. As I had watered the first garden all on the same water levels for the same length of time, I did the same on the second. Lesson learned: zucchinis need less water. I got a handful of decent vegetables but nothing near the expected harvest. The tomatoes were on overload, however.

Tomatoes need lots of water to produce their fruits and then a slacking of water for them to begin to ripen. By drowning the zucchinis in the same manner, they did not thrive as they had the first time around. Both are staples in my gardening and cooking. But by considering them to live and grow under the same conditions I actually impeded the growth of both. They needed different things.

People are the same way. I had one roommate who lived (probably still does) by planning and formatting everything she did down to the littlest detail of scheduling when she'd take a sip from her water bottle every day at work. And she kept it. That's how she functioned and she functioned well that way.

I, on the other hand, provided a number of moments for anxiety for her because I can't function that way. It often happened when one of us asked the other if they wanted to watch a movie. I'd decide what genre I wanted to watch by what I was in the mood for. She'd decide by the movies she'd purchased but not yet watched - in chronological order.

I need space to breathe. She wanted/needed to structure to guide and enable.

A couple days ago I had a nearly non-functional day due to the efforts of the day before. I actually watched TV again (it's been months - I prefer DVDs). I came across the Extreme Weight Loss show which I have seen once before. I had enjoyed it, so I watched it again. The woman on the show's journey got highly frustrated when she came home from her first three months away in the 'boot camp' to find that her husband had maintained all the problematic life-habits that enabled her trouble in the first place. The tension continued on for months.

Finally, the show's host and weight loss/exercise guru guy decided to put them both on a challenge in a manner to show the microcosm of the relationship. The husband was to golf (his hobby/passion) and the wife was to wear a vest with all the weight she had lost up to that point - 115 lbs. And caddy for him. So long as he golfed well, the wight would be removed piece by piece.

For the first nine holes, you wouldn't know he had any skill at golf and she grew more and more upset that he only made excuses. She reached breaking point and he knew it. The viewer and the wife was shown, through the host's guiding, how upset the husband was. She finally realized that he really did care and it distressed him as much as it did her.

The host guided her to the core question of, 'Recognizing that he will fall short, even when you need him, will you still stand by him?' The husband was quite anxious about the answer. (I felt bad for him having such a vulnerable moment being filmed for national TV.) She said yes.

Here's the kicker - as soon as the pressure was off, he golfed well, including what both he and his wife called his best shot ever.

The world, and many of the red personalities who seem to idolize the Stephen Covey goal-fixations, tends to think people will only achieve if they are pushed to it. That they need the coach screaming in the ears, berating every failure, demanding effort and success or they will degenerate into lazy, worthless bums. Some people respond to that by bringing forth great efforts. Some people are drowned, like the zucchinis, when too much pressure is applied.

I've seen this pattern in my life so many times. I am often amused that when I'm at my most non-functioning, I'll tell myself 'this is all I will worry about today' and then, inevitably, I manage to do a little bit more. (Of course, some days I'm doing good just to make it to the kitchen to eat.) This is not reverse-psychology. It is accepting that demanding the world is not fair and not even necessary. It is rejoicing in what I do accomplish and especially in any extras I manage. Having a chronic-illness often teaches this pattern to people. I was lucky enough to catch glimpses of it even before the dysautonomia kicked high-gear.

If you need the structure of the tomato cages and the steady, solid waterings, use what you need. But don't think or demand that others need the same. Give us zucchinis the basics and then leave us to our own ways. Gardeners are often overwhelmed by just how much the zucchini plants produce.

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