Weeding Out Poisonous Relationships from the Garden of Life

HealHeal Spring 2021

Learning to set boundaries can be a healthy project, writes a cancer survivor. She provides insight into how the hobby of gardening and setting boundaries share commonalities.

Spring will be here shortly. The days will be longer and the weather warmer. Those who’ve been cooped up inside will begin to slowly emerge, looking for ways to enjoy spending time in the glorious sunshine and fresh air.

Some will focus on hobbies like gardening. Spring is the perfect time for planting, especially after the danger of frost has passed. With the ground warm enough, avid gardeners will begin planting seeds for their vegetable or flower gardens, but it’s not an easy task. Preparing garden beds is hard work! Pulling weeds, tilling soil, adding amendments like compost and lime take time and energy. That’s why it’s so important for those affected by cancer to pace themselves.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of doing and forget physical limitations only to suffer from them later in the day. I’ve found, with lymphedema, that breaking large projects into smaller chunks is helpful. Instead of trying to complete everything in one day, I stretch my projects out over several days.

This year, instead of planting my entire back yard into a vegetable garden, I decided to utilize raised beds. They provide smaller spaces which make weeding and watering much easier. They also make gardening easier because the beds are raised to waist high levels. That means less bending and back pain.

Weeding is one of my least favorite gardening chores. It doesn’t matter how many times I pull the weeds; they always seem to come back. If it weren’t for the weeds, gardening would be such a pleasure, but gardening is like life. Sometimes we have to deal with challenges.

And that brings me to another gardening-related topic – ridding oneself of toxic things.

It’s important, for the person with cancer, to guard not only their physical health, but also their mental health. Just like pulling obnoxious weeds that might choke out and damage new plants, sometimes a person needs to reevaluate their friend base.

Just as in gardening, a proper growing environment is conducive to producing healthy plants and setting boundaries can provide a way of removing toxicity caused by those who poison relationships.

But how does one recognize a toxic relationship?

A toxic relationship is any relationship that causes one to feel drained, discouraged, doubtful, or debilitated. If you dread being around someone, more than likely that person is toxic in your life.

What can one do to eliminate a toxic relationship? While one can’t put weed killer on a toxic person, like they can on problem plants in the garden, there are ways of ridding oneself of “weed type” people.

Boundaries are one of the best ways of controlling toxic people. Here are some tips on setting boundaries:

  • Make yourself a priority – give yourself permission to evaluate relationships and cut ties on the unhealthy ones.
  • Seek the support of close family.
  • Don’t be afraid to be assertive — it’s important to guard your mental wellbeing. You are the gatekeeper. You can hold on to friends who nourish you and say goodbye to those who don’t. Ending relationships can be difficult, Go slow and easy. Take one step at a time.

Spring is a time of renewal and new growth. It’s a time for celebrating life and doing things that bring joy. If there are relationships that rob you of joy or cause you to feel fearful or dread, it’s time to end those relationships.

It may be time to do a mental health inventory. Let go of whatever causes you to feel weighed down and burdened. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” That sounds like a good motto for gardeners and those affected by cancer.

Boundaries can make a huge difference. You have the power to employ them. Why let your garden of friends be filled with annoying weeds? Eliminate the toxic ones and enjoy a thriving, beautiful garden filled with those who love and support you.

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