Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Denial, Depression, and an Overgrown Lawn

I mowed the lawn today. It hadn't been mowed since before my mother died. The cooler weather of fall and some recent rain storms have caused the grass to grow much faster than it did in the heat of the summer, rendering the lawn 10" high in some places. At least it would have been that high if the weight of the grass hadn't caused it to fall over and lay flat. The cats loved it; the whole yard was a bird blind. Even I couldn't see them at dusk if they held still, cozied down in the deep grass.

Why haven't I mowed my lawn for nearly a month, you ask? That's a good question. The only answer I can think of -- inertia. I don't mind mowing, especially during the cooler seasons. It's a mindless task that provides instant gratification; guiding the lawnmower over the overgrown grass leaves behind a neatly manicured level carpet of green. And that smell. Mmmmmm. I've never met a person who didn't like the smell of cut grass. I don't view it as an unpleasant chore at all.

I was planning to mow the morning my dad called, saying that mom was gravely ill, and that I should come up right away. I even had my overalls on. I hurriedly threw some clothes in the car and raced off, leaving a lot of loose ends behind at home. I called Tom and Jessica and neighbors arranging for help getting my kids where they needed to be for the next couple of days. I left my tall lawn behind without a second thought, not knowing that it would be not days but weeks before it got any attention from me again.

Mom left before I got there. I had only been on the road for an hour when dad called to tell me that she was gone. I spent the next couple of days with my dad and siblings, making decisions and funeral arrangements, and preparing the house for company during the coming weekend. My dad's lawn was long too; that grass didn't get mowed either.

I came home for a day to try to catch up on everything that hadn't been done in the three days I was gone, and pack up the family for the weekend funeral. I went next door to thank my lovely neighbor who had helped with the kids in my absence. Then I got a phone call from the ward compassionate service leader.

"Hi Lisa? I'm so sorry to hear about your mom," she said.

"Thanks," I said.

"Is there anything you need?"

What I should have said was, 'Dinner tonight would be very helpful, and could you arrange for someone to mow my lawn this weekend? Also, I've got several bushels of tomatoes I was going to can. Would you find a loving home for them so they don't spoil?'

Instead I said, "Trudy really helped us a lot - she even brought over dinner last night."

CSL said, "Oh, how nice of her!"

"Yeah..." I said. I waited.

"Well," she tried again, "what can I do to help you?"

"My lawn is getting pretty long. I haven't had time to mow it," I offered.

"Oh, would you like me or my husband to come over and do that for you?"

Isn't that what I just said? No, I'd rather have Santa Claus do it. The image of this petite round woman or of her large rounder husband huffing and puffing behind my pathetic little push mower was too much for me.

"Naw," I said, "I'll probably just hire the boy across the street to do it."

"Oh ok!" she said brightly, "Well, if there is anything you need, let me know, ok?"

You. Betcha. Thanks so much.

Now really, I can't blame this woman. She obviously doesn't know me very well, and I didn't exactly make her job easy. For some odd reason, I couldn't just come out and be plain about what I needed from her. Why is that? Because at the time I didn't think I really needed anything. I was perfectly capable of making dinner and mowing my own lawn. It wasn't a big deal.

And yet, somehow, it's been three weeks since that day, and I still haven't been able to motivate myself to get outside and cut the grass. The ridiculousness of the situation peaked when two out-of-state friends conspired to find someone to cut my lawn. I was finally spurred to action when one of these dear, helpful, encouraging, bossy friends sicked an older lady who lives in my town on me. There was no way I was going to sit in my house and watch another woman mow my lawn when I was perfectly capable of doing it myself.

Maybe that was the plan all along. Sneaky....


  1. Lisa,
    I don't know quite what to say. Yes you were physically capable of mowing your lawn, but what about emotionally? You need to be kind to yourself and let yourself grieve. So what if things like mowing the lawn don't get done by you for a while. I think you should hire the neighbor boy across the street. You should delegate as much as you can right now. You will be stronger again in the future and there will be years of lawn mowing ahead of you. Let it go right now if you can. I love you and am praying for you. (big hug)

  2. I am also sorry that the compassionate service leader wasn't able to help lift your burden more than she did. Sometimes we are in such a bad place that what we really need is poeple to just come in and do what needs to be done, and make decisions for us. Making even the simplest decisions takes energy you don't have to spare right now. Just keep hanging in there.

  3. Who cares if you are physically capable of doing it? Sometimes you just need a little help and if someone wants to increase their retirement account with the True Zion Bank of Goodness (FDIC insured - Faithful Deity Insurance Corporation) then allow them to contribute. Let them enjoy a time of mindless tasking and smelling of freshly cut grass.

    So, what else do you need "help" with? ;)

  4. Oh, and isn't bossy a little harsh? I prefer something along the lines of encouraging, helpful, get the picture.

  5. i just wish i had noticed. keep smiling...allow yourself to have some down time...or practice time. how is that dance coming along. getting a good workout in every once in a while. lots of love from over here... :)

  6. There, I added a few of your positive adjectives, christine. Happy? :P

  7. Thank you. Yes, I feel much better. :D

  8. Lisa, I am sorry about your mom. I am always amazed at how long it takes to "return to real life" when big life events like this happen. Sometimes it feels like someone has pulled the rug out from under us and although we can get on our feet again, some how the process of actually standing up seems so overwhelming. I pray that if I am ever the compationate service leader in the ward, I will be more prayerful before I make the calls. It is an easy one to overlook when the person seems as capable as yourself.