This post first appeared nearly a year ago, and since I am somewhere on a highway on my way to a vacation and faraway from any Internet service , I thought it was quite appropriate to revisit the anxiety that I feel when I have to leave my garden in someone else’s hands. For longtime readers, I apologize for this repeat broadcast; for new readers, I hope you enjoy.
It’s summertime, and Joe and I are going on vacation for a few days. It’s a chance to relax, to get away from everything, to reconnect, to breathe. In actuality, though, the days leading up to departure mean a growing sense of unease and worry. I become consumed with obsessive thoughts, anxiety, and stress — and none of it comes from the what-to-pack, what-not-to-pack scenario, nor from the airport pat-down, nor from who will mind the dog and the cat, nor from the last-second question, “Did I remember to take my trusted Swiss army knife out of my carry-on?” No. For me, the physical-emotional symptoms stem from leaving my garden and entrusting its care to someone other than myself. I am now calling these symptoms Garden Separation Anxiety Disorder, also known as G-SAD, as in, “Gee, That’s sad.”
The plant caretaker is Joe’s mother. It is for her that I write lists and lists and lists of instructions of what each of my plants need. “Keep an eye on the hydrangeas under the pine tree; that tree sucks up their water, and so you may have to give them a little extra.” “I moved all of the pots that need daily watering to one side, but you could probably skip a day or two for the geraniums.” “The sprinklers and hoses are all in position, and for some of the larger pots, you might be better off using a watering can.” And on and on and on I go.
Then I worry that she may not understand my handwritten notes, so I turn to the computer and type out my pages, complete with numbers and bullets. In essence, all of my notes can be summed up with one simple sentence: “Please, don’t forget to water.”
Once Joe and I are away, I continue to have plants on the brain. How are they holding up? Are they wilted? Do they need staking? I’m not sure how new parents are able to leave their infant with a babysitter for the first time. Hmmm. That reminds me — I wonder if I could get a plant cam. Maybe there’s even an app for that!
While we are away, Joe tries to distract me with a garden fix, visiting nurseries and public gardens. It helps. We get ideas for future projects and enjoy the creativity of fellow gardeners. But then I catch a glimpse of a pine tree with some shrubs under it, and I am reminded of the hydrangeas under our pine tree. I think to myself, “Did I tell Joe’s mother about the extra water. I’m sure I did. Maybe I should call her just to check — but that would be a bit much because I’ve already given her way too many notes.” Then, I begin to rationalize. “Maybe I should check the Weather Channel. Hopefully it’s raining heavily there, so Joe’s mother doesn’t have to be bogged down with watering. That way she can get out of the house and do her stuff.” As if heavy rain would be a godsend for her!
Of course, when we return, I see that the garden has survived. I am always amazed at how quickly things grow in my absence, and how much work needs to be done. The truth is, everything lives, although some are wilted and some are water-soaked. And as I putter about, I work hard to avoid depression as I realize that my plants really don’t need me. That, I tell myself, would be far worse than G-SAD. I would have to call that one Depressive Anxiety Malaise Disorder or DAMD.
But now that I’m home, it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get the garden back in order — my order. And for those of you who may be wondering, that would be Overbearing Control Reactive Associative Psychoses. You know, O-CRAP.