Sometimes Mondays
The Burning Question

Paring Down: Another Focus Post

"Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do."
                                                            -- John Carmack

About this time of year - when my garden is somewhere under inches of snow and the temperatures barely reach freezing - I really start to think about gardening.  I dream and scheme and plan.  I get that "itch" to dig in the dirt again.  I want to look out my windows and see . . . color.

I satisfy myself with my amaryllis, here in the meantime.  But the pull of the garden is getting stronger each day.


(View from the top.  A very hard-working amaryllis putting on a most-welcome show right now.)

And it's been this way for a long time -- this pull of the garden.  

In fact, 14 years ago this pull led me to seek out the Master Gardener program.  It seemed like a natural extension of my interests at the time.  I loved to garden, and I was interested in learning more about "real" gardening and maybe even garden design.  I wanted to become a more knowledgeable gardener.  Besides, we had recently moved to Kalamazoo, and I thought it would be a great way to get to know other gardeners and connect with my new community.  (There is a strong volunteer component to the Master Gardener program.)

So I did it.  I signed up for the program.  I sat through months of horticulture lectures, did my assignments, passed the test.  I worked hard as a volunteer in gardens all around the community.  And in 2006, I became a certified Master Gardener.

Which, in turn . . . introduced me to gardening friends.  Who got me involved in "ancillary" garden groups like the Hosta Society and Garden Club.

And, of course . . . there were requirements (both educational and volunteer) to re-certifiy each year.  Which led to MORE classes and new certifications and tours and conferences and events.

And here I am.  12 years later.
And WAY overcommitted -- and grumpier every year about the time I'm NOT spending in my own garden.

Last summer, when the notion that maybe it was time to let the Master Gardener thing GO . . . first crossed my mind, I was horrified.  Because I loved the program, really.  And I have so many gardening pals who are also involved.  And I had made a huge investment of time and money and passion for so many years!

But I started shedding those ancillary groups.  (It was easy to say good-bye to the Hosta Society and the Garden Club.)  And I decided to pack my Master Gardener commitment into one of those "maybe" boxes of closet cleaning fame . . . to just see if I could live without it.  I stopped attending conferences and meetings.  I cut way back on my volunteer hours.  I unsubscribed from the email alerts and newsletters.

And I discovered I didn't miss it at all.

In fact, it made me feel free!

My gardening friends think I'm nuts to quit.  And the program director is taking it personally.  But I'm very much at peace.

The Master Gardener program was great for me when I first started out.  It "fit" me then.  I was energized and excited.  But, over the years, it's just gotten a little tight and itchy.  

It's time for me to let it go. 

And now that I've decided to let it go, I'm amazed that it was such a hard decision at all.  Why was it that my personal "investment" and a sense of obligation kept me involved . . . even when I knew my heart wasn't in it anymore?  Whatever the reason, getting rid of this huge commitment in my life will make it easier to pare down even more.

(I'm looking forward to more time in my own garden this spring, y'know?)