The Elusiveness of Consistent Effort: About Gardening and Other Self-Improvement Activities

The trips out to my insanely untended ‘Victory Garden’ have become more infrequent as the dread at finding still more tomatoes grows. Our neighbor, a man with a new-found farmer avocation, comes by every few days with bags of tomatoes, small ones, medium ones, giant ones. I add them to the tomatoes I pick from the tangled vines of my pitiful garden. The tomatoes are relentless. They aren’t connected to me in any way. They would grow in the middle of a road. They are stronger than me and they know it.

When I trudge through our overly shaded yard to the spot of the ‘garden,’ I think that I should write a blog post entitled, “The Elusiveness of Consistent Effort.” The garden’s hysterical weeds and overgrown-ness is so extreme as to have been planned. But what it is is my passive-aggressive relationship with plants. I love them, the idea of them, the planting of them and then, just as fast as this, I resent their neediness.

Is it really necessary to water them every day? What if it rains?

On the side of our house is a long strip of plants and flowering whatnot. It struck me a few days ago that I may actually have killed a plant that had been around a long time because of my ambivalence about watering so I started watering every afternoon, thinking I could re-coup the damage. After a few days, a few plants started to brighten up but  then it rained and I lost interest.

I was this way about studying Spanish, then Hebrew, then American Sign Language. In love with the idea and regular in my attempts but wandering off mid-way when it became clear that some level of daily involvement would be necessary. You can’t learn ASL by going to a class once a week? You have to practice every day? It’s the same with Tai Chi where I walk in every week as if it’s the first time I’ve ever laid eyes on a Tai Chi-er. I follow her every move, nearly twisting my head out of its socket to watch her because nothing gets wired into my brain. But there I don’t care. There’s no risk of tomatoes.

So I’ve tried to come up with instances where I’ve had consistent effort. I raised four kids although some of them would argue that they mostly raised themselves. I’ve stayed married a long time. That takes consistent effort if only the effort required not to leave when really pissed. I finished a dissertation by writing five pages a day for however many days 250 pages divided by 5 is.


And I have this blog. Now there’s consistent effort. Five years, several hundred posts, frequent, present, trying, watering, occasionally weeding.

So it’s not out of the question that I could have a decent garden someday. Already I’m planning for next year, how I’m going to stay on top of gardening by doing a little bit every day. And how I’m never going to plant another zucchini plant because they become monstrous and take over the entire garden except for the tomatoes that are able to beat the zucchini plants back with baseball bats. You wonder why I don’t water. It would only make them stronger.

It’s important to have some failure as part of your life, some humbling thing, something you can’t help seeing, that reminds you that you are falling short. Your father could work 12 hour days and water his garden, prune the roses, pull the weeds and he could do it in a short-sleeved white dress shirt and a clip-on tie. What’s your excuse, Jan?

You don’t have one, do you. That’s fine. The tomatoes have gone on without you.


Photo by Marc Mueller on Unsplash


16 Comments on “The Elusiveness of Consistent Effort: About Gardening and Other Self-Improvement Activities

  1. “The garden of good intentions.” That’s how I always thought of mine. The one year I actually worked at weeding, watering, pruning, etc., we had a massive hail storm that wiped it all out.

  2. If failures make a person humble then I am a potato in the garden of humility. Or maybe an onion – whichever is deeper in the dirt. Thank goodness for blogs to keep our spirits up.

  3. dearmaizie & Jan. Please can I join the Good Starters but Feeble Continuers club ? It’s where I belong. And yes, I do keep blogging. But not consistently, of course!

  4. This is an old but goodie! I was just asked my trainer if I had a certain day that I could promise would be available to have training. But I love it that with a few exceptions, teaching courses for example, I have a life of great un-routine! I am busy and involved but it is not the same week after week. When I was kid, if it was Monday, it was meatloaf. Structure is good fo kids but I am happy to be unstructured!

  5. Because my efforts at gardening are at best pathetic, I grow things that will grow anywhere. Day lilies. Columbine. A few daffodils. Giant wild roses that are stronger than a barbed wire fence. But tomatoes. To me, that is absolutely magical. I’ve never grown anything as impressive as a tomato.

  6. I think we all have those occasions in our lives when we give up on something but then when we stumble upon the one thing we’re passionate about we dive in and keep on swimming because the water feels good and we never want to get out. Of course, being in the water too long will make us over-saturated and dare I say ‘pruney’ but that’s where the term ‘everything in moderation’ comes into play. Take a break to gain perspective then jump right back in. It’s all about finding your passion and it seems you’ve found it in your blogging 🙂

    Best wishes for a great week ahead (and for next year’s gardening efforts too!

  7. Am laughing re: the tomatoes. I remember the year I got a bumper crop and made more spaghetti sauce than the U.S. Army could consume:). Seemed like I was cooking for days! You planning on doing the same?

  8. I remember a not too distant post where you longed to be funny. (Lord thunderin’ I hope it was you, Jan!) This is a hoot of a post! The line about tomato baseballs pummeling the invasive zucchinis – ho ho! I was nodding in agreement all the way through about consistent effort. Obviously we are consistent with the things/people we love. Don’t let the tomatoes beat you up. Your garden of writin’ is beautiful.

  9. yes, life goes on, regardless of what we do or don’t do. shows what a major role we actually play in the scheme of things. but we keep on trying and i think that’s all we can do – beth

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