‘Great (Un)Expectations’

Have you ever had expectations of something – an event or occasion, other people, or even just life in general, only to discover that things turned out in a way you did not anticipate? And then the unexpected turn of events resulted in life heading in a direction you never even imagined you’d go?

I’ve experienced the unexpected in many ways over the years. Sometimes it has been major and traumatic. Others have been surprising and exciting, like the marketing retreat I attended a few weekends ago, organized by Ming Johanson of OTOTGO.

I anticipated an interesting weekend (it was!), learning some helpful new information and skills, (I did!) and maybe making some new friends (absolutely!)

What I didn’t anticipate was a huge shift in my thinking – about myself and how my life and business ‘should’ be.
I’ve been caught up for a long while, hovering between my landscape design business and my recent foray into the fascinating world of personal development coaching. As a result of my lack of focus I did very little with either!
I hoped that the marketing retreat would help me decide which business to focus on, and which to let go. Both are important to me – how could I chose? – but I believed that if I didn’t make a decision soon as to which business to move forward in, I may as well start looking for a full-time job, and give up the dream of having my own successful business (*insert sad face here*)

During a discussion (after a delicious meal on the balcony of the lovely beach house we stayed at for the retreat), Ming suggested that I combine the two businesses. I have had this suggested to me before but I’d been unable to see how it could be done.

At the retreat I shared my story about how I came to appreciate gardening and garden design, and how it has helped me personally over the years. Since then I have also considered why I began coaching. I have had a number of unexpected major challenges in my life. I saw coaching as a way to help myself through some of the lingering aspects of these events, and also as a means to contribute to, and support others, in similar situations. I began to see how I could apply my coaching skills in a unique way to garden design, and the ideas also flowed about including gardening as part of my coaching. TOTALLY unexpected!

I will share some of these ideas in later blogs. For now I’ll share the story that got this thing going. As you probably expect, after reading this far, it’s about something entirely unexpected…
For those who know me, you may be surprised to discover – I HATED gardening! (Didn’t expect that now, did ya?!)
I’ve always loved being outside in nature, appreciated a lovely garden and all that. But seriously, who wants to pull up weeds, mow lawns, get dirt under the fingernails, and deal with all sorts of creepy crawlies? Not me! I worked in the garden when I had to, and no more.

That is, until one of those unexpected life events dumped all over me.

My sweet baby girl Rhiannon died just a couple of weeks after her first birthday. She was just starting to walk, and smiled and giggled constantly (I loved her bubbly laugh). A medical condition we didn’t know about until it was too late took our smiley girl from us.I was a full-time mum; my main focus in life at that point was caring for and loving Rhiannon. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I was…what? Was I still a mother? What do I do now I no longer had my baby to care for?

My parents and I created a little garden on Rhiannon’s grave (her resting place is still referred to as ‘Rhiannon’s Garden’ by my family). Initially the garden was to soften the look of the raw earth piled up over her grave. My heart and soul already felt bare and barren. There needed to be life and growth, a reminder that there is still beauty and peace.

I didn’t consciously think these things when I planted the garden on that small mound. I simply needed something, anything, to do, to care for, to nurture and watch grow. Caring for a garden was a poor substitute for caring for my baby, but it kept me sane. It provided a meaningful connection to Rhiannon, a regular distraction from my grief, and gave me something to do and accomplish. I could no longer take care of my daughter, but I could do THIS.

I never expected the peace I would find in that little garden. I could focus on the present; lose myself in the feel of my fingers in the dirt, the texture and fragrance of the plants, their flowers and form – easy on the eye and restful for the heart.

I could look forward to the seasonal changes in the garden, pretty flowers, colourful new growth and the way the light at different times of the year created a whole new feeling to the garden.

It was a safe place to sit and reflect, to cry when I needed to, and to have it all put into perspective by the majestic Karri forest surrounding the cemetery. The giant trees have seen so many laid to rest over the years, yet are still there, standing strong and proud.

Now I can’t imagine my life without a garden in it. I never expected I would ever feel that way.

My current garden is very overgrown at the moment. The paths have all but disappeared. Some plants have taken over, while others are struggling but they are surviving. Strong winds have damaged a few shrubs too. But that’s ok. The garden is lush, green and growing. It’s like my own backyard jungle. Who knows what treasures there may be in there? Soon there will be a mass of flowers as spring approaches. Every year I find plants that have unexpectedly flowered and others that haven’t.

My garden reflects quite accurately where I’m at, right now. Things have been chaotic, but slowly I’m creating some order. My own growth has been massive in certain areas of my life and a challenge in others. I haven’t really been taking good care of myself, but like my garden, I’m surviving. I am looking forward with anticipation to pruning a few things back in my life, clearing pathways to get a better idea of where I am going, and planting some ‘seeds’ to see what will bloom. Unexpected things still keep happening, but it is only a season in my life. I just remind myself that spring is coming.

Until then I intend to explore and enjoy the all unexpected challenges, AND the unexpected sweetness , of this present season in my personal ‘jungle’.

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