This is our garden, I just spent an hour digging up weeds. Stood back and realised it didn’t look as if I’d done anything. It’s been in a process of change for over a year since we started our renovation. Right now, someone on the outside might even look in and think it’s not a very impressive patch of earth. Muddy, strewn with kids toys and garden tools and bags of stones and plants waiting to be planted. But when I look at it, I see how far we’ve come, I see the potential in that back left corner for a seating area under the maple we’re going to plant in that top tier. How we’ll spend sunny days reading under those glowing maroon leaves or playing cards and I’ll remember how much my father loved maple trees and playing cards. The mud transformed into green grass with a picnic blanket spread out where we will eat our dinner when the weather favours us. We’ll lay on our backs and look for shapes in the clouds whilst the bees buzz around the herbs and flowers we’ll plant.
My little unimpressive patch of earth. But it’s mine. Before we renovated it was a neat little garden, with neat borders – we had paid for it and it was in a much more impressive state. But it was not mine. I’ll plant haphazardly, crookedly, less clean lines, less organised and more scattered, softer. More me. I guess from the outside, I could be described as unimpressive. I passed high school by some sort of miracle, I received a fluke A in drama theory and my teacher verbalised her shock and disbelief – people didn’t expect much of me and I didn’t expect much of myself. I have no university degree. I speak only English. I don’t play an instrument. The worlds standards, the requirements to be successful by this world’s standards are not met by me. But I’ll tell you a badly kept secret, the worlds standards are not the measure of a person, nor a barometer of worth. The invisible pressure to do and be perceived as impressive is a suffocating blanket of oppression, choking out contentment.
What a relief to know that I can be unimpressive and still deeply valued, unimpressive and still worthy of love and affection, unimpressive but still positively contribute to the world I find myself planted in. Impressive is far heavier a label to carry.
My health is not impressive, an accident as a child triggered a chronic pain condition that was also the likely cause of losing 3 babies, the grief of which escalated the symptoms of pain I experience daily. So unimpressive, but it’s generated an appreciation and a gratitude much deeper within me that would never have been cultivated outside of the struggle to find hope and light and laughter. Grew a quiet understanding and love for those that don’t make the grade in some way, removing the ‘impressive’ qualifiers that our culture bombards us with.
I am so beautifully unimpressive. I find mornings hard and sometimes have to drag my reluctant behind from bed and dig deep for the gratitude that finds me a half hour later dancing to Hakunna Matta, unapologetically blurting out the “farted” bit that’s skipped over for the sake of the kids, in the kitchen with my two miracles. I dance and sing loudly and pull silly faces. Some days I don’t, some days it’s too much, I’m too tired or too sore and the kids get taken to school by their wonderful granny or watch too much tv because I’m not well enough for high energy. But they always have my arms around them and my whispers in their ears of how precious they are and how much I love them. They understand that mommy struggles sometimes, they love me.
It would be lovely if my husband and I always conversed in tones that reflected how precious we are to each other. But the early years of our marriage were quite unimpressive communication wise and now sometimes our tiredness gives way to what will later require apology. But if you could time lapse our 14 years together, it would show how our unimpressive bits tended by our love and nurtured by our commitment grew a bond that wouldn’t exist without navigating each others spiky, smelly, rude, hurtful, ungrateful parts of our nature. We’ve become less spiky, still smelly, less rude, less hurtful and more and more grateful.
Impressive so often gives way to unimpressive. The initial attraction to the achievements, the talents, the looks, the hormonal surges, the excited anticipation pull apart like a heavy theatre curtain revealing the true stage of life. The grit, the drama, the mundane, the loss, the confusion, the questioning and yet remaining faithful.
Sometimes unimpressive is the soil that grows the fantastic and meaningful.