No Turning Back

It’s the last week of February as I write, and seed starting is just around the bend. There are six days, actually, according to my meticulously planned (but quite possibly disastrously inaccurate) sowing schedule, until I start our first sweet peas. After that, I’ll be starting new batches of seeds every Sunday through July. This means that the growing season is almost underway—the time for which I’ve been (impatiently) waiting since last summer is nearly here.

And I’m feeling super overwhelmed.

You should see our propagation room (our propagation basement, I should say). We’ve got seed pots, home-rigged plastic cups in Rubbermaid bins and boot trays, and newspaper-lined bulb crates stacked on every sort of shelving unit we could muster (including the ping-pong table). There are so many shop lights strung from the ceiling of my laundry room that we’re worried our postman may contact the police with concerns about an illegal grow operation—or an alien invasion of some kind. What’s this going to do to our electric bill? I guess we’ll see!

That’s the least of my worries. There’s so much to fret over! Field spacing and days-to-maturity calculations and wildly varied germination requirements. I can deal with that. I’ve been growing flowers a long time. I can deal with all of that. On top of all of that, though, are a drip irrigation system, and the accoutrement for our market stall, and BTUs/insulation for the walk-in cooler we’re building, and choosing a credit card processing service. There’s a lot more math involved in all this than I’d hoped, and math has never been my friend.

There’s too much in my head, and I’m struggling to keep it all organized in there.

To make matters worse, I read a Daily Mail article yesterday on the secrets of “super-agers” (really old people). You know, longevity tips. Heh. Here’s one I could’ve contributed: don’t randomly jump into a business you know almost nothing about! The article delivered some pretty devastating news: doctors conclude that super-agers live so long because…ready?...they never worry. Shit, guys.

Have I said yet that I’m overwhelmed?

I knew this would happen, of course, because I’m easily overwhelmed. It’s one of the things I most dislike about myself. I stack things up in my mind until they topple and crush me. I’m woefully incapable of inertia, so I tend to attack the stack as quickly as possible and with as much ferocity as I can summon. This has served me pretty well in lots of ways, but it also means I’ve often got a fraying knot of anxiety burning hot in my chest. I’m not sure people know that. Twelve years and three thousand miles ago (in a veritable past life), a colleague applauded me for what he saw as my talent for keeping calm under pressure. I thought he was joking, which I told him. He wasn’t and concluded I must be like a swan—seeming to glide gracefully across the water but with unseen feet kicking frantically beneath the surface. I’ll never forget that because it struck me as super incorrect, or at least way out of sync with the way I see myself.

I mean, I’m a mess. Can’t everybody see what a mess I am? Then and now: a mess.

I love a new challenge and I knew starting this business wouldn’t be easy, but thinking about how much has to happen perfectly on schedule and in exactly the right way is making me crazy at the moment. I’m afraid I’ll forget something or I’ll overlook a major detail or I’ll screw up in a really irreversible way. I’m stressed, and, if I’m being honest with you: I’ve been verging worringly close to second thoughts for the past few days.

Is this going to be worth it?

Yesterday I looked up from my keyboard to find my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter sitting across from me with a bunch of my spreadsheets laid out on the table in front of her. Tracing a column with her little index finger, she said cheerfully, “I’m workin’ on our flower business, Mummy!” I stopped typing and scooted over to her side of the table. We snuggled (she’s a major, major snuggler), and we went through one of the books stacked up beside us, pointing to and identifying all the flowers she could, which was most of them. It occurs to me that perhaps she can tell the differences between a peony and a rose and between a bunch of tulips and a bundle of daffodils because she’s been with me so completely on this flower journey. She knows how much I’ve been putting into this, and she’s seen and felt how much I love it. She’s been right there next to me on this trip, for her whole life, really, and she’s been watching and noticing. Even my son, who is seven and cares almost only about hockey and playing spy, has taken an interest in the new family biz. I caught him in the basement this morning counting and organizing grow cups.

So it’s clear to me that I can’t give up at this point. There’s no turning back. My kids are paying very close attention and I need to be careful about how things proceed. I realize I need to keep a good attitude and demonstrate the right temperament throughout—through the inevitable stresses and crises and failures. Knowing this somehow doesn’t add pressure. Actually, it’s oddly reassuring. Isn’t that strange? Shouldn’t that be the hardest part of this whole thing? It feels the easiest. Maybe that’s because this entire endeavor has been motivated by our wish to do something awesome and different and risky together. Maybe it’s because it reminds me that whatever happens, they’re in this with me.

The days are getting longer and warmer, and I crossed paths with three ladybugs at the farm yesterday. Spring is coming. I’ll start our sweet peas on Sunday and in no time at all we’ll be in the thick of flower season. I expect it’ll be a dizzying blur of to-do lists and planting and harvesting and problem-solving and markets and aching backs and constant re-adjustments and late nights and early mornings and dirt under our fingernails and falling asleep in our farm clothes.

I actually can’t wait for that. I know it’s going to be amazing. Still, I’m accepting pep talks!






Mary Beth McConaheyComment