Small beginnings

I work in an office, and as if often the case when you get a group of administrators working together, chances are at least some of them are going to have their own variations on OCD and other odd behaviours. In our case, I sometimes think our office is like something from “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest”. We had quite an important breakthrough last week, and one of our number has put herself so far outside her usual comfort zone it has left us all amazed – she is still nervous about the task she has committed herself to, and I’m not saying there won’t be tears, but so far so good. Some elements of the job she has taken on would hardly merit a second thought for a lot of people, but they’re absolute mountains to her; it’s so easy to take for granted what a lot of us find easy and second nature, and to forget that to some people these things represent absolute nightmares.

So. Some years ago I lived in South Africa, we lived on a very smart golf estate and we had a beautiful house, but the garden had been neglected and was quite overgrown compared to what it must have looked like when it was first planted. I decided to take this project on, and got up early one morning armed with the pitiful collection of garden tools left by the landlord, and a lot of determination, and set to. As I tugged on one piece of creeper running through the border, bushes on the other side of the garden moved – it was completely infested with this stuff. But I carried on, and did what I thought was an amazing job; it wasn’t finished but you could once again see soil, and some shape to the plants, and I felt it was a very worthwhile first day’s effort. As I tidied up in the afternoon a team of professional gardeners came past the house, and one of them told me that they had been the team that originally planted that garden, they had loved it and it had looked so beautiful when originally planted, “but we see it now madam, and we cry”. He did actually say cry.

So I stomped back into the house and had a long shower and a serious sulk, I’ll admit to having been quite upset by this. All my hard work, and people still felt the need to burst into tears when they saw the state of it. I had my shower, my husband came home and we had a meal, and we had a relaxing evening in. And 7.30 the next morning I was up again, tackling the same area of garden but a lot more methodically, and this time it really did look better, though probably still invoked unease / hysteria in any passing professional. but I learnt from this experience, as I’ve learned from gardening in general:

  • Your first attempt at a new project may well be rubbish. In fact it’s almost certain it will be. Before you realised how rubbish it was though, if you were enjoying it and had high hopes it would work out, chances are it’s worth continuing with.
  • Your second attempt is probably not much better than your first.
  • By tackling it in small stages you are improving all the time – if every part of a task is new to you don’t be too hard on yourself if overall you don’t think it worked out. Some bits will have been more successful than others, and gradually there will be more successful bits. As a musician friend once said to me, when playing a piece of music don’t stress over the single bad note you played, think about all the good ones.
  • It gets easier. All of it.


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