Plant the Seeds

My daughter, the potter, made me a beautiful vessel for the kitchen herb garden I have been wanting all winter. This weekend I started a variety of herbs by seed, and expect they will be big and plentiful enough to populate both my new indoor and regular outdoor gardens. We’ll eat from them all summer, and now, thanks to daughter, through the winter as well. This, plus watching spring slowly unfurl from every tree and bush, has me thinking about how we need to plant seeds ahead of time to get the fruits we desire.

There are many research studies that show that what we do early in life has enormous impact many years later. Adolescents who are fit and active make healthier adults. Middle aged adults who exercise and socialize more make happier old adults, and so on. This all seems obvious, but how often do we think of the choices we make in terms of their effect over long periods of time — like decades? We are not trained to think this way, our society is oriented around the short term, promoting instant gratification. We are encouraged to be casual, nay careless about how we treat ourselves right now, with the mind set that we can “make up for” excesses later, or that “just this once doesn’t count.”

I offer to you the notion that everything counts. Every substance you put into your body, every movie you watch, every person you interact with, everything you buy. Because all of these inconsequential details, in aggregate, strung together over years and years like tiny beads, become the fabric that comprises . . . you. Ruth Ozeki in her wonderful novel, A Tale For The Time Being, states that there are roughly 6,358,298 moments in each day, and she points out that every one of those moments is an opportunity to make a choice. Think of all the choices you make in a single day! Moment after moment you are choosing to do or not do, to smile or scowl, to walk or ride, to say “yes” or “no,” go right or left, The vast majority of choices are made outside of our awareness by our amazingly efficient automatic processes. But many are accessible to your influence.  We all know the recipe for good health and greater happiness — exercise more, don’t smoke, eat whole food and not too much, meditate, spend time with people you care about, go to therapy, find work you enjoy, get enough sleep.

All of this can sound overwhelming until you break it down into the infinity of tiny choices you make every moment of every day. Eat the carrot not the cookie, take the stairs, say “no” to the person who wants to gossip, say “yes” to the one who will really talk to you. Cultivate the idea that everything matters. Weave the seed beads of tiny choices into a tapestry of intentional beauty and meaning. Plant the seeds today of the way you want to be as an adult, middle aged, and old, and if you do it with care and attention, when you get there, she or he will thank you. Oh, and read the book!