To Welcome Failure with Open Arms

I don’t like excuses. I just can’t stand them. So, I won’t feed you any. Simply put…I failed. My plans were beautiful and full of potential. But, they didn’t work out as I hoped they would. All I have to show for them are these barren patches of dirt in the front yard. Every day I step outside and see my failure.

It sounds harsh, but it is merely the truth—exactly as I see it. I was too wishful in thinking I could create a large, lavish herb garden in one growing season. I wanted more than 10 beds of plants I’d not grown before to thrive in my garden. However, I ended up with none.

“I must be a terrible plant grower. I should probably throw in my towel at ever being an herbalist.”

These are all things I’ve been telling myself as I think about this failure. But, that is my ego talking. There’s more to see and learn here, if I can be present with my failure—not wishing it away. Instead, asking it to stay and teach me a thing or two.

Failing is unpleasant, disappointing, and often extremely embarrassing. But failure brings just as many opportunities for growth as a success can offer. Perhaps even more! Let me share this dreamer’s story, and I’ll show you what I mean.

The Failure Part

Daisy sitting near one of my flower beds.

In late winter, I started getting antsy. I wanted to be planting, and I was ready for everything to turn green. I needed something to occupy my days while I waited for the spring. So, I started designing the perfect medicinal herb garden. Using graph paper, I measured everything out precisely as I wanted it. I surveyed the spot where I would put my garden. And I cleared the area of leaves and twigs.

By February I had my seeds ordered and the weeds were scraped clean from the beds where I would be planting them. I started the seeds in regular garden dirt to save money on buying soil. I figured I’d be able to tell when the plants sprouted, rather than the weeds that were hidden in the dirt. Wishful thinking!

Some of my seeds did sprout. I was able to identify them, and I was happy to see them coming up among the grassy weeds. Still, some of my plants did nothing.

I was beginning to feel overwhelmed as spring arrived. In addition to the herbs I wanted to grow, I had garden vegetables to plant. This was a first time garden year in this particular place. The garden needed heavy tilling and a fence before being ready for plants.

Also, life was happening outside the garden. New schedules and routines. House work, meeting others’ needs, appointments. Oh, and the chicks! We had chicks to care for now, too. The plants I did have starting to come up didn’t make it. There wasn’t enough of me to go around.

The Picking Myself Up Part

Of course, it is disappointing to think about the plants I would love to be wandering through right now. I am sad, and slightly embarrassed that my dreamy plans didn’t take shape this year. I was so eager to get started, and the next growing season feels like ages away. It would be easy for one to assume that my skills aren’t good enough to make this plan a reality. For a while, even I believed that to be true.

The easy route is to believe that, and just give up. I could find something else that might interest me and try that. Then, I don’t have to think about the fact that I failed anymore. On the other hand, a more difficult path I could take involves sitting with the unpleasant feelings in order to learn from them. It may be be the more difficult, but it will also be the more rewarding in the end.

So next year I will try again. I will attempt to grow medicinal herbs in garden beds. (I’m dreaming of it already.) But this time with a few new lessons learned.

These are my failure takeaways

  • Start small. Planning and attending to one small patch of herbs successfully growing in my garden will be much better than planning a large, diverse patch that leaves me with zero or only a few suffering plants. Remember, you are not a superhero. You can only do so much!
  • Take your time. It is common in our modern society to want everything right now. That is one area where I went wrong. I wanted a beautiful, elaborate garden to walk through this year. But these things take time. Adding on, little by little, to a strong foundation is the best route to go.
  • You can’t possess the plants. I wanted to control the plant. If it’s growing in my garden, I will have ready access to it and it will be mine-so I thought. However, I now understand that the plant is a free spirit. If I try to plant medicinal herbs with this controlling wish, they will sense that. I will always be in a rush, and never satisfied with them. If I change my tone and attend to them with appreciation I will have a much happier plant growing in my bed.
  • Be prepared to put in extra work. This summer became hot and dry very quickly. Next year, I must be prepared to put in extra trips to the lake to keep the plants cool and moist. A routine is helpful when it comes to adding extra seasonal chores.
  • Start sooner. My plants were started too late from seed. They didn’t get adequate time to establish themselves before the summer sun cooked their roots. Plan to build a small greenhouse to start seeds.
  • Don’t give up. I’ve learned many great lessons to take into next year’s growing season. Not to mention learning a little something about my stamina along the way. Keep trying, because this is going to happen!

Most often, the situations and events that leave us feeling uneasy and uncomfortable are the situations greatly needing our attention. They are trying to tell us something. My tendency is to push them away because they are so unpleasant. Yet, they always seem to offer the most room for growth. I’ve learned so much about myself from this process of thinking through a failure and forming a plan to try again-with the hopes of greater success.

Had I pushed this failure aside, or hid it under my bed I would not have identified little areas of weakness. And more importantly, I wouldn’t have determined how I could make them better. I challenge you to think about something you feel is a past failure. Can you too work through it, rather than giving up on it? I guarantee you will find out something new about yourself in the process. And, understanding ourselves a little better is always worth the effort, in my mind!