Betty Duffy

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Few Lies I've Been Telling Myself

Contemplating my garden, how I have postponed addressing the weeds as the weather turns muggy and the mosquitoes hatch, and the thought of doubling over and sullying my fingernails in the mud fills me with dread, I am forced to disclaim a myth I’ve long held about myself: contrary to prior professions of earthmothership, I do not like gardening.

It did not occur to me these past years to doubt my love for gardening, in light of all the goodness of vegetables, and flowers blooming, and herbs de Provence on my table. How could gardening be anything other than a delight? How could I feel anything but love for gardening, in spite of my consistent jump-ship ethic in mid-June when the weeds overtake the turnips? DAMMIT, I WILL LOVE GARDENING! Because it’s good for the environment, and garden co-ops are the rage, and I live on a place where I can have a gigantic garden, and I like onions! But I do not like gardening. It’s hard, and lonely, and hot.

Recognition of this fact about myself causes me to pause for a moment, to consider what other lies I have been telling myself about myself. Is it time for me to consider the likelihood that I am also not a Math Person, in spite of my straight A’s in Calculus in the eleventh grade? Is my husband correct in insinuating that it is an immoral act to refer to myself as a Math Person when I have to use my fingers to figure the sum of 7 and 8, and I have not committed another singular act of calculus since I graduated from high school?

Recently I learned that I am not an athlete, and it came as quite a shock. I’ve always had a slow heartbeat, had to run laps around the gym in high school in order to bring my pulse up for a blood drive. “That’s an athlete’s heart,” they said. “Well I do run cross country,” I answered proudly, and on I barreled through life, firm enough in my status as an athlete that in spite of my having delivered five children, and gaining the corresponding weight, my voice would raise pitch and grow shaky in debate with my sister-in-law when she dared to suggest that I am not athletic. But at a doctor’s appointment not long ago, the doctor, making note of my slow heartbeat gave it to me straight: “Someone who doesn’t know about these things will tell you you’ve got an athlete’s heart. But you are not an athlete. We’ll keep an eye on it.” Another myth shattered.

The recurring theme here is that throughout my life I have ascribed certain positive attributes to my person that I do not actually possess. And the older I get, the easier it is to see things for what they really are. I am not one of those people of great promise, who has failed to yield good fruits. I am someone who likely never possessed the great promise to begin with. But it’s been fun, these years of self-delusion—remembering how the Italian men crawled out from the porticos of Florence like so many cockroaches when the blonde American girl passed. These years of thinking I was so bewitching in my youth; I’ll tell my granddaughters about it—rather than the likely actuality that they were trained like Pavlov’s dog to expect sex when single American girls flounced brazenly across the piazza.


jen said...

Back in March, I tortured my hubby to set up a gardening plot for me. A tiny plot. Stuff is growing now. Tomatoes, herbs and who knows what b/c I lost the diagram of it all. The other day, I was dripping sweat in 100 degree weather in the shade pulling weeds and thinking to myself "I want to be the kind of person who loves this, but I hate it!!!" Don't anybody buy me one of those rocks that says, "God is closest to the heart in the garden," or whatever the saying is, b/c if that is true, I am in big trouble, b/c after five minutes I'm ready to go inside.

TheSeeker said...

Ugh, I DREAD when I finally get married off and have to leave my tiny apt for a place where I'll have to maintain the yard. I hate dirt. I hate plants. I don't even really like being outside, unless it's a cool day in the manicured park downtown, lol.

Anonymous said...

By any chance is your sister-in-law Southern? Close-knit Southern families are BRUTALLY honest, almost to a fault, especially when a member has "artistic" pretensions.


Anonymous said...

I meant to add so what if you can't run in a straight line or do simple arithmetic? You're a helluva writer, Sugar!

p.s. mint juleps AND/or ice cold beer are essential gardening tools.


Betty Duffy said...

Rayne, My sister-in-law is about as yankee as one can be. But she is a bonafied, tournament winning athlete--the competitive spirit runs deep.

I can see where alchohol would improve enjoyment of gardening--though I tend to do my weeding in the morning. Is 7:30 am too soon for a nip?

Anonymous said...

It's never too early for a nip down here in New Orleans.

Lisa said...

Gosh, but you hit the nail on the head every time. I love your writing. I hate growing out of my delusions about myself.