The Gentle Gardener

April 21, 2009

Nature is balm for the soul. Whenever I feel stressed, I step outside my office and into my garden to dig around in the dirt for a few minutes. Studying the landscape, I inevitably regain a sense of balance and beauty about my surroundings. Internally, I simply feel better having stepped outside the scope of my day-to-day routine.

april-2009-080Even urban folks who work a mile-high in the sky can benefit from Nature’s bounty. Rooftop gardening has gained popularity in recent years. The Chicago City Hall has designed a garden atop its building. Tokyo, with over 30 million in the greater metropolitan area, enjoys over 100 hectares of stories-high greenery. In fact, the Tokyo government has ordered that number grow to 1,000 hectares by the year 2017. Rooftop gardens contribute to the cooling of the building and of the Earth itself.

If you’re in need of a quick alignment to reembrace the power of slow, go green by going outdoors. Even a houseplant in the wintertime can yield a sense of calm. Dig your fingers into the soil. You might even find a snail, the ultimate slow-goer!


This is the first in a series of interviews with top thinkers in the work-life balance community.

addicted-to-stressDebbie Mandel, M.A., author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, told me in an email interview how she views the current slowdown.

She writes:

“There is recess in recession. Children learn better after recess, so this is the time to collect your energy and regenerate.

Her tips?

• It’s time to reclaim your identity – do you know what you uniquely bring to the table?
• Do something creative. Creativity in one area transfers to another.
• Exercise to shed stress, feel empowered and organize your day around good health.
• Manage the small stressors you have control over because they inundate and overwhelm.
• Stress will always land on your doorstep, but you don’t have to constantly open the door.”

It’s time to reevaluate, not devalue, what we have and who we are. I would also suggest challenging yourself to a new routine by changing just one thing you do every day. As Debbie says, you don’t have to answer the knock if you don’t want to and even a slight shift in your habits can make all the difference!

“Never leave the house without your lipstick and pearls,” my grandmother would say. As long as you had those things, she claimed, you were considered fully dressed. She was of an era of up-dos and crinolin. She had class, style, and charisma.

The Associated Press recently asked me what I thought about the term ‘momshell’. Quite honestly, I had never heard of the word before. But it says a lot about self-care today. We women want to be visible even when we have children.

michelleI remember the first time I felt invisible. All eyes were on the baby, and I was the backdrop. It felt strange, and oddly comforting, as if I didn’t have to be on display anymore, sporting a size 4 or sucking in my stomach to look like all those 18-year-old models. Being pregnant liberated me from belts and other restrictive clothing.

Then came the transition into toddlerhood, when the children and my parenting became more transparent. Their behavior reflected on me, and suddenly I became centerstage again. Only this time the stage was cluttered with rotten tomatoes thrown at us non-perfect moms.

Momshells are women who care for themselves, who want to look and feel good. I mentioned Michelle Obama as an example of someone who is beautiful inside and out and who has made the sacrifices of motherhood more visible. That, to me, is beauty in motion. And a dash of lipstick can never hurt.

A TV crew is filming my husband and me next Saturday. They are going to observe what happens when a couple tries to live without petroleum products for a day. We’re not just talking about the classic stuff such as heating oil and automobiles. We’re talking about the mineral oil in your oilmake-up, the plastic spatula to dish out food, the hairbrush you use in the morning. Even your toothbrush! Ewwww!

It is for a good cause, though. The science program, Faszination Wissen (Fascination Knowledge), is trying to show how far-reaching our use of oil goes. We’re excited. And nervous. And wondering how slow our lives will be in a week!

Oh, and you want to know the best part? It turns out I know the TV host, but that’s not how we learned about the opportunity. If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. Synchronicity, and the power of slow, are at work once again!