Garden Gate.

When I was a kid, if I felt I had been treated unjustly, I would accuse my mother of not loving me.  She would get upset, say that she did, and hugs and kisses would abound.  Then one day, her response changed.

That day she replied, “You’re right.  Right now, I don’t love you because of the way you’re acting.”

I never made the accusation again because I couldn’t bear to hear the confirmation of what I believed to be the truth.  Instead, I employed a new tactic.  I threatened to run away.  For a while, this elicited the desired response of asking me to stay, assuring me I was wanted at home.

But the coddling didn’t last long.  After the umpteenth threat, my mother held open the front door and said, “Good. Go.”

I brushed past her in the way only a girl can when she’s trying to prove she is stronger than her mother.  She was calling my bluff and in a fury I was going to show her she couldn’t break me.  But after only walking half a block away, shielded by an apartment building, I sobbed for a few moments. Realizing leaving wasn’t even slightly possible, I returned home, head lowered in shame. False threats get a young girl nowhere.

Sometimes I feel like not much has changed. I have more sophisticated ways of garnering the attention I’m looking for.  I sometimes deny that my blatant attempts to solicit affection and approval are not what they seem.

I convince myself that the results I get are genuine and true and not forced from others. I pretend that people don’t say what I want to hear to placate me and that they would have said it anyway even if I hadn’t begged for it. I fool myself into believing that I’m worthy of the accolades that I guilt others into bestowing upon me.

They say that if you water a garden and tend to it properly, beautiful flowers will grow there. But what if all the garden ever really was made up of was weeds in poor soil?  You can spend years dumping water and plant food on it and nothing beautiful will grow. You can get down on the ground, fingers covered in dirt and really work the land, but if the soil is void of all nutrients, no matter what you plant there it will die.

I feel like I’m standing in that rotten garden, overrun with weeds.  What grows soon wilts, mocking me for yet another failed attempt.  But this time I see the garden gate is wide open, silent screaming, “Good.  Go.”

This time I’m not stopping to cry and I’m not turning back.

Linking up with Yeah Write, a super supportive community of writers.  Please click through, read the other entries, and return on Thursday to vote for favorites.  And if you’re so inclined, why not submit your own piece?

EDITED TO ADD:  Hey, look at this!  This post earned the #3 spot on the popular vote of Yeah Write 91.  So honored to be in the Top Row Five with four other talented writers.  Thanks to all who voted.

57 Responses to “Garden Gate.”

  1. Your metaphor of the garden is so stunning, so perfect, that I had to go back and read it three times. It just took my breath away.

  2. I hate to just say, “what she said” but Samantha said what I want to say, just better.

    Dang. Wish I had something for yeahwrite…. oh well I’ll just lurk!

  3. Aren’t we our own worst enemies at time? I’m wishing you much love and peace…and a good spade and plenty of fertilizer for that garden :-)

  4. Christie says:

    I too love the garden metaphor. You raise good questions here that I want to answer for myself. Great post.

  5. IASoupMama says:

    Even a bad garden can grow something beautiful — and every weed has a purpose and, more importantly, a life. Weeds are living things, too — just ask the child who proudly brings you a dandelion.

    • This is a wonderfully positive spin. I would be wise to try to learn from my experience, find the good that must have come from it, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.

      Thank you so much.

  6. Ginny Marie says:

    Sometimes going out the garden gate is the only thing left to do. Good luck!

  7. Gia says:

    Me: Say something nice to me!
    Boyfriend: If you’re forcing me to say it then it’s not genuine…

    Ohh, i know all about that…

  8. no one is making me say that i thought this was a beautifully written, insightful post.

  9. Don’t turn back, but maybe stop for a nice coffee or glass of something delicious and then do a U-Turn. I’d miss you.

  10. You just need to seed that garden with the knowledge that you can make people do what you want, or you can make them want to do what you want. I’ve read enough of your blog to know that you have it in you to make people want to do what you want.

  11. TriGirl says:

    Beautiful metaphor. It’s so hard to wait for the things you need, and to require it from others. I know I’m guilty of that…isn’t that what blogging is all about?

  12. The garden metaphor is so beautiful! I hope you grow something beautiful there this Spring. Thinking of you.

  13. Kristin says:

    You are far from guilting me into loving this post and saying so! The garden image is so on. We all come from the dirt and give back to it too. I agree with IASoupMama that the weeds have purpose, but we can rip them up too! We have the ability to write our own stories even if we have a lot of weeds…its what we do with them. Prayers for you as you move forward.

    • Thank you so much. The weeds definitely had their purpose but they’ve served it and they are never going to turn into beautiful flowers, no matter how much I wanted them too. And that’s OK, or at least it will be when I’m past the initial sting.

  14. I echo all the comments about the garden in this post. It’s funny. I’m thinking about the earlier part of this post and it’s relation to your mother. I find myself on the mother end of thing wondering how what I say and do affect my children? So many times I know they are acting out to get a response. How does one know the right way to respond? All very complex.

    • Parenting is so hard. I try so hard to not say “damaging” things to my son but I know I’m guilty of it just like we all are sometimes. I’m sure my mother didn’t mean to hurt me with her words, but I think she didn’t think them through, or at the very least she didn’t have a filter. It just goes to show that you never know how your words will affect someone.

  15. Nurturing your own soil is harder, but in the end the results you get are far more genuine. Such a great post, Michelle. Thought-provoking and worthy in ALL ways. 😉 xox

  16. Jack says:

    This post is special, there is so much depth.

  17. Omg, Michelle….I love this!!! It is perfection!!!

  18. I wish I could give you a hug from here. Nothing this profound and beautiful could come from a weed. You may have been planted in a shitty garden, but no way are you a weed. Like you, at times I have difficulty seeing my beauty and worth and believing others when they point it out to me, solicited or not. Here’s to some healing of those old messages (and a more loving, fertile garden plot!).

  19. Azara says:

    I LOVED this! Best thing I’ve read of yours yet. Just perfect.

  20. danastaves says:

    I love your scene of being a little girl running away. I tried something similar when my brother was babysitting me – got my Beauty and the Beast sleeping bag and some clothes and sprinted for the door. He tried to stop me, and before I could stop myself, I was just laughing and laughing. I couldn’t look mad. (Lesson: my brother ruins everything.) Beautiful post! Very poignant.

    • I think we all play the running away card. I was too stubborn to bring anything – I wanted to do it on my own with no help from anyone. Really not possible when you’re not even a teenager.

      Thanks for your kind words!

  21. Jen says:

    It’s so hard to really run away. And maybe that’s a good thing sometimes, because it forces us to try and work with what we have and make something out of it. Of course, there are times when walking away is the healthiest option. The hard part is figuring out which times those are.

    • As a child, running away was no option. I’ve “run” away from toxic situations before and being hasty is not always a good choice. This time, I’m turning away on my own terms, in my own time, after thinking it through and I think this is the healthiest choice I can make.

  22. Jester Queen says:

    I hate it when someone reacts wrong to something I’ve done. My husband frequently has no idea what I “want” him to say. (Answer: ANYTHING, because he often responds by staring blankly, probably in an agony of indecision about my expectations.) But it’s so frustrating to have to ask for a desired result, for others not to know the right thin intuitively.

  23. Larks says:

    I too love this post and love the garden metaphor. This is my favorite kind of melancholy post: honest yet not so full of specifics that the reader can lose the forest for the trees. I know how you feel. ((( hugs )))

  24. Beautiful writing, Michelle. Just beautiful!

    My favorite line (although it was tough to choose!) is:
    “I brushed past her in the way only a girl can when she’s trying to prove she is stronger than her mother.”

    Isn’t that the truth?

  25. Wow, that was super cool. . . so many things to say about it. . . I’ll start w/ this: I used to teach middle school, and I know all about the ways of pre-teens and teenagers – namely, drama! I too, in my adult life, have been accused of behaving like a stubborn adolescent, which is probably true in many cases. . . maybe we never really DO grow up, or maybe, everything is just cyclical. . . my twins will be four in two weeks. . . their behavior the past year reminded me a lot of the behavior of some of the middle school kids which reminds me a lot of my own behavior when I’m being obstinate. . . Thanks for writing such an awesome post. Glad to connect! – Jared

    • Gina says:

      I was having trouble leaving a comment from my phone so I just added it.

      This has so many layers. I hope you aren’t tired of hearing how awesome the garden metaphor is. It’s frustrating when people don’t understand us. What we need/want or are trying to communicate.

    • Thanks Jared. I think drama is a given when you’re dealing with kids, that’s for sure!!

    • Thanks for leaving the comment even though it was giving you trouble. That happens to me a lot when trying to comment in Blogger. So annoying.

      I don’t get tired of hearing something I wrote worked, so thank you! :)

  26. Damn, this is such a wonderful piece of writing Michelle! Your insight, the metaphor, the way you put it all into words…just awe inspiring. I can so relate to what you’re saying here. I’ve been there too. Bravo on a terrific post.

    • Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. I think a lot of us have felt this way, looking around and realizing that we’re never going to find what we need where we are. But, for me at least, it’s comforting to know I’m not alone.

  27. Angela Ryan says:

    Your metaphor is simply stellar, Michelle! I really enjoyed this bit of writing — everything about it. I use to “run away” all the time when I was little. This meant I went and hid under the log pile and then when no one looked for me after about an hour I stormed back in the house announcing that my family didn’t love me.

  28. Kianwi says:

    It’s so funny, but my mom and I had the exact same conversations. Only the time she finally told me to go, I actually packed my suitcase. Still didn’t get far, of course.

    Great imagery! This is me.

leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: