The Unengaged GardenerBy
In my last post “Freedom from Nose to Tail Surviving”, I said: “What if there is little interest shown at all? Maybe a parent is physically present, but shares no emotional interaction, doesn’t give of themselves or seek to know, really know, their child? The child assumes that she isn’t worth pursuing, her whole self isn’t worth pursuing. Or maybe, her whole self is ‘too much’ to handle, too much to pursue, not worth the effort.”
Imagine a brand new garden. Dark, fragrant earth. All the seeds are planted and ready to grow. The conditions are just right for this garden to flourish, to thrive. All the potential is there. I imagine this is the life of a new child. We are each born unique, with our own unique potential to be and live out who we are in this world. Some kinds of abuse go into the garden and trample it, rip things out or purposefully squish what is growing. Some kinds of abuse want to redo the whole garden to make it look exactly like their own garden. Some kinds of abuse are only bent on passing down the pain and destruction that they received themselves, be it physical, verbal, or sexual mistreatment.
What about the gardener who, being gifted with the garden, doesn’t do very much with it? He may be there every day but he’s not working to help the seeds to grow. He doesn’t try to learn what they need to thrive. He is terrified of making mistakes, so he stays as far to the periphery of the garden as he can without actually leaving. He finds other things to occupy his time while the garden starts to grow as best it can without his help. He offers some easier attendance here and there, providing the basics, certain things he is comfortable doing. But he doesn’t take the time to learn the intricacies of this place, how unique this particular garden is, and exactly what kind of potential is brewing in its deeply planted seeds. Certain things may still grow and flourish, but with a sense of grasping at life, a hungry sense of surviving. The gardener is not vigilant to protect the vulnerable early growth. Weeds grow at the same time and strangle some of the good stuff just poking through. Birds or insects are given free rein to come and pick at it as they choose. Ripe things that could be harvested drop to the ground unnoticed. Over time, tendrils crawl out all over the place, seeking for some kind of attention and care.
My dad was this kind of gardener. He never tried to destroy my garden, but by mostly sitting around the outside of it, being too afraid to get involved with what was really going on on the inside, he inadvertently sent the message to me that I was not valuable enough to be pursued, that my own feelings and thoughts were not worth being interacted with, that my deepest potential wasn’t worth being investigated. This was the beginning of my hungry heart, the tendrils hungrily seeking out other ways of being validated and affirmed. As children, we automatically form our first most powerful belief system based on how we are treated by our very first gardeners. This belief system was one of the biggest vacuums that drew me into deep struggles with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.