I was sitting in a church meeting the other day. We started talking about some of the really important things that we all want to include in our lives. Top of the priority list kind of things. And then our teacher probed—why don’t we do these things? And as people began to volunteer personal and sincere answers, two words entered my mind: Life weeds.
What are life weeds?
All of the unwanted things that creep into our lives and before we know it they have choked the life out of the things that actually do matter. Life weeds are subtle and sneaky and they take intentionality and effort to root out. We all have them. Let me name a few:
Junk email. Kid’s stuff. Too many clothes to wash, fold, and store. Facebook. Stuff. Junk catalogs selling us stuff. Obligations that we don’t need to take on. Random papers to manage. Toxic people. Netflix. Debt. Stuff. Stuff. Stuff.
The Definition of a Weed
I consulted Google for some basic characteristics of weeds, and here’s what I learned about real weeds that I think have metaphorical application:
1. Weeds are plants that grow unwantedly, they are often prolific and persistent.
2. Weeds compete with crop plants for water, light, nutrients, and space.
3. Weeds resemble plants, but they do not bear fruit.
4. Some weeds are parasites, either partially or totally, on plants.
5. Weeds interfere with agricultural operations, increase labor costs, and reduce crop yields.
I’ve spent the last few months pulling many of my life weeds, one by one. I still have a long way to go, but the difference is notable already. Every day, bit by bit, I have traded stuff or obligations for more space and breath in my life. As a result, the important things are beginning to spread out and have room to grow again.
Time for family and friends. Spirituality and meditation. Exercise. Reading good books. Being in nature. Preparing healthy food. Service. Self care. Sense of peace and calm.
You know you never really think that an old shoe or too many piles of laundry or an overbooked calendar are actually robbing your life of its potential—but they are. They are in the same way that a weed cozies up to plant and takes up the space and the light and the water that would otherwise go to the plant.
Some weeds look a lot like plants. Many years ago I had a chance to go to a small farm on the Romanian countryside to help a family hoe their cornfield. Growing everywhere in the rows of corn were weeds that, at first glance, looked just like the young corn plants. But with some instruction I was able to identify the imposters and we all went to work.
Often our lives get overrun with weeds that look a lot like plants. These might be good things, but if they are choking the life out of the things that matter most, they are weeds. If you want your plants to thrive, you must pull the weeds.
Some weeds take courage to pull. Don’t start with those. Start with the small, easy to pull ones. Recycle this. Say no to that. Donate this. Eliminate that.
You will begin to gain clarity and it will become easier to identify what is important. Eventually, the weeds and the plants that once looked similar will look entirely different from one another. And you will find the courage to tackle the tough stuff.
Yes, it takes work. But you know what? It’s absolutely worth it.
*Note — This article was originally published at Medium.