My Useful Complex

Every spring, we buy a bunch of mulch, edge our garden beds, and trim our hedges. And every year, I have just about the same set of feelings that I’ve had every spring before.

I feel useless.

I feel incapable.

I feel inferior. 

I know, I know. We’re talking about inanimate, green bushes and bags of decaying bark that smell like poo, but these feelings are real, people! REAL!

So why do I have such a dismal set of feelings over this annual, homeowner activity?

Well, because…

I don’t feel like I have a lot to offer, and I don’t feel strong or quick or smart;

I don’t feel like the whole “work-in-your-yard-activities” come naturally to me, or even make sense to me; and

I don’t feel like I’m a Super-Star Gardener (yes, in my my mind there is actually a rewarded title for this).

But. My. Husband. Is.  

He’s strong, and he’s got “yard smarts;”

he’s quick at the tasks, and he makes them look easy; and

he’s a former landscaper and a title-holding Super-Star Gardener.

But. I. Am. Not. 

Sounds a little like my bike-riding issues, huh? I’m tellin’ you, friends…I’ve got real, bonafide pride issues! REAL, I SAY!

But because I don’t want to be found munching on a bag of Doritos in our air-conditioned home want to be helpful and engaged in our lawn-beautification activities, I try.

Wielding the hedge trimmers and a pair of pink gloves, I start off strong. Hoping to give those hedges a haircut they’ll never forget, I give it a real-hard go.

And about 13 minutes into it (after I note my uneven trimming bush-whacking and feel my aching, on-fire forearms), I start to doubt what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, and I start searching for affirmation.

“Babe, am I even helping?”

“Is this okay?” 

“Don, am I doing this right?” 

And usually, I hear something like, “Yeah, it’s a good start.” Or “Uh-huh. Thanks hun.” And my insecure, yard brain pretty much interprets that as, “Wow, babe! That really sucks! Next time, maybe trim with your eyes open?!?!”

And what do I do when I misinterpret his response and begin to second-guess my yard identity usefulness, I quit and say something like, “Hey babe, I think I’ll let you do the rest; I don’t want to do it wrong.” And then I move on to some other menial task that feels slightly less daunting and a little more pride-healing—like picking weeds, or counting flowers, or taking the large stick away from my daughter before she gouges her left eye.

I can do those things. 

But last night, after I had personally fired myself from my hedge-whacking job, I looked over and saw my son trailing his daddy around the yard with his little, red wheelbarrow…begging for a job.

Like me, he wanted a place, a role, a helping-part but unlike me, he never once questioned his usefulness. 

Moving from one pile to the next, he heaped his little, red wheelbarrow full of hedge trimmings and ran to the growing, scrap pile.

He was feeling useful.

“Daddy, I’m really working hard!”

He was feeling capable.

“Look at me, Mommy! I’ve got a big load.”

He was feeling confident. 

“We’re really getting lots done, family!!!”

He wasn’t doubting, questioning, or second-guessing his usefulness because he was busy being helpful. 

And guess what? He was…he truly was.

Sure, he wasn’t as strong, or quick, or as smart as we were. Sure, he was missing spots and dropping leaves. And sure, he wasn’t a natural or even a Super-Star Gardener, but he didn’t have to be.


Because you don’t have to be the best to be a blessing. 

Oh, and you see that large pile of yard trimmings below? Yeah, well, that was the result of a little boy with helping hands who didn’t doubt his usefulness.


3 thoughts on “My Useful Complex

  1. “Because you don’t have to be the best to be a blessing.”

    10043908430753789% appreciate this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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