IN THE GARDEN OF WINS AND LOSSES
by Sandra Bark
Last spring, I started a garden on my fire escape. I germinated seeds in egg cartons covered in plastic wrap, hauled home bags of soil and drilled holes in containers, and attended the tiny green seedlings as they poked their little heads up from the dirt. When they seemed hardy enough to my untrained eye, I planted them outside.
Every morning thereafter, I would stand at the window and delight in each new leaf that appeared. And then the rains came. And came. And came. I was away on a business trip, and by the time I got back, most of my little plants were drowned, caved, buried, done for. Poof. All that hard work, beaten back by the storms.
I should have been discouraged, or dismayed, or at the very least, disinclined to try again. Except that wasn’t the case. To my surprise, I wasn’t upset, not at all. And not because I am a master of impermanence: because I didn’t do it for the tomatoes. Because I did it for the growing experience, and that is what I got. As it turns out, losing your crops to a wicked storm is an integral part of the learning curve, which is exactly what I had been looking for in the first place.
My takeaway? Success and failure have nothing to do with surface measures of what it means to win or lose. If we want to be able to engage in activities fully without losing our minds, we’ve got to understand why we’re really there.
Take running, for example. If you’ve signed up for a marathon because you want to come in first, then even second is a fail. If you’re there to run, then as long as you’re running, you’re golden–even if you come in 1001st in a 1000 person race.
Or yoga. If you’re at the studio because you’re determined to levitate, even a perfect two minute handstand in the middle of the room is a fail. If you’re there to strengthen, to sweat, to align, you win–even if you face plant in side crow.
Understanding the goals we bring with us into an experience is paramount, whether we’re marathoning or yogaing or tending a garden. I may have lost a bucket full of plants, but I didn’t lose—I won. I won knowledge, I won experience, I won an increased understanding of how to do it better next time.
And my poor fire escape garden? I saved a tomato plant, made sure to keep a closer eye on it for the duration of the season, and just last week, enjoyed a fresh-picked amuse bouche composed of a fat ripe cherry tomato, a fragrant basil leaf and a sprig of glee.