But recently I've started making lists for gardening too. I came to the decision that I needed to start compiling gardening task lists, for two reasons. Firstly, I was finding that I couldn't as easily keep everything in my head as I did when healthy. Keeping lists in your head uses up quite a lot of cognitive resource energy. By writing a list I free up that energy for something else, such as cooking.
Secondly, I found I often felt upset at my perception of 'how little' I did in the garden. I would say "I only got x done" or "but I have so much else to do", with the implication I wasn't doing enough. This was of course being unfair to myself, expecting that I should be able to do and achieve (a bad word, I know, but apt in this context) the same as I did when I was a healthy gardener.
A list. Obviously.
Being constantly tired not only means I have less energy to do, but less energy to think about doing. Writing lists, crossing off a task, gives me a strong personal sense of achievement. In this case I'm using 'achievement' to mean respecting myself and the context within which my health is situated. In fact I've found crossing tasks off a list, no matter how small, adds to my joy of gardening again. Because now I think "wow, I'm getting a lot done given how little energy I have".
Quite often I add a task to the list after I've done it, and then cross it off immediately! I guess that may seem a little crazy, but it's actually about acknowledging all the work I do in the garden. Take 'sowing Brassicas'. On the surface what might seem simple and obvious isn't. I first have to dress appropriately, adding an extra layer as ME seems to have made me feel the cold much more than I used to. Then it's digging the seeds out of the seed box, unlocking the garage (my shed), getting out the pots and compost. Sowing, watering, putting the newly sown pots into the greenhouse. Tidying up, coming back inside, changing out of gardening clothes and having a rest. So if I hadn't included this task on my list before, I add it later to remind myself of the energy used, and respective value of, even a simple kitchen garden task.
Of course, sometimes it is nice to go out into the garden, throw the list to the wind and just potter. Yes, there are things I want to get done and ticked off, but one of the great joys of gardening for me is pottering. Whilst having ME has meant I have needed to be more focused with how and where I'm using my energy in the garden, it's also good for the ME soul to occasionally go into the garden and have a good potter about. It's nice to get things done (tick), but it's good on occasion to have enjoy some pottering freedom.
Sometimes pottering leads to, well, pottering
I hope to (will) return to health and do away with the gardening lists eventually. But until then, lists help me maintain a positive sense of what I get done in the garden, even within the limitations of a chronic illness. Now, I'll just go and tick off writing this blogpost from my other task list. Tick.
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I welcome your comments and thoughts. And if you blog about gardening with ME/a chronic illness, link to this post in your blog, and leave a comment below with a link to your post, so we can all find each other.
About Gardening with ME
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Recent Gardening with ME posts...
Gardening with ME: gardening in your head
Gardening with ME: planning the kitchen garden year