As a gardener, my specialty is weeding. I am attentive and dedicated to weeding, and man, I do it the hard way. If you’d driven my neighborhood this spring, you’d have found me in my front lawn digging dandelions and pouring white vinegar on any portion of root that remained. But my (tiny) front lawn is dandelion-free and I didn’t have to use something scary to accomplish it. (What that doesn’t tell you is that my efforts are much less successful in the backyard and my granola nature has earned me a persistent colony of bunnies destroying the fencing that kept them out from under my deck. Take that, hippy!)

My weaker point is watering. The houseplants I’m focused on get watered regularly. The houseplants that are not on my radar get watered when I think they might actually die if I can’t get my act together. And the habits I’ve developed with outside plants have sometimes been problematic. What works well for me is to water at night. That gives many plants a fungus.

My absolute weakest point is fertilizing. I’m going to use compost and really nurture plants to get them to grow, but then their job is to grow. I’ll keep them safe from predators and water them (if I think of it), but their job is to grow.

I talked about this with my mom this spring and she said “that’s stupid. Why wouldn’t you fertilize it? Are you that committed to doing things the hard way?” Those weren’t her exact words, but that’s what I heard and I had to admit that she was right. Last night, I bought fertilizer for my vegetable garden.

Fascinating, right?

This morning, I had my regularly scheduled one-on-one with my boss. After we covered the regularly scheduled business, I closed the door, red-faced, and admitted that I was bothered by something in the staff meeting yesterday. We have these democratic pats on the back that we can be nominated for and that we can nominate others for. As I listened to my colleagues in other departments get these back pats (they’re a little more than that— if you get a certain number, you can redeem them for perks— time off, among other things. And they add up to make you eligible for larger awards— financial and otherwise)— I found myself getting upset.

Let me say that I’m not primarily motivated by pats on the back. I like a challenge, I like work that has meaning for me, I like to learn things. I’m certain that everyone who got patted on the back deserved one, and I can tell myself that the reason I didn’t get any was that my boss has been busy and out of the office. But I’ve done some big things lately, and frankly, it bothered me that, in the recognition my boss gave of the launch of one of those things, she didn’t mention me (or any of the members of the team involved) by name. And we weren’t given recognition through this method, either. And it bothered me more than I wanted to admit, I think because I have a pattern in my life of tolerating what I call benign neglect. From a young age, I’ve kept my head up and my mouth shut and worked hard and been fairly easy to ignore. It happened to me in school, it’s happened in working situations, it’s happened in relationships.

And I’ve reached a point where I don’t appear to be able to shut up about it. Which works well with the fact that I feel like it’s a self-betrayal to shut up about it at this stage. So I told my boss that I wished I could let it go, but it mattered to me, whether I got pats on the back or accolades of any sort, that these things were on her radar.

She listened and said she wasn’t sure what was said that bothered me, but that she sees the good work I do, and the back pat system bothers her and she never submits anyone for her because it seems like a good thing but then situations like this come up, and she’s pressured to pat people outside her department on the backs and she has a team full of people who go above and beyond all the time, and she feels terrible that I feel like I’m anything less than outstanding, and…

We didn’t resolve anything. She said she should maybe revisit her opposition to the program (with which I agree. I’m not primarily motivated by pats on the back, but I’m hugely demotivated by seeing other people patted on the back and knowing that my efforts won’t be similarly recognized. And taking myself out of the equation, I’d say if the fact that her team is consistently outstanding disqualifies them for tangible recognition, my opinion is that’s a bad equation.)

And as I was thinking about it, I saw that as gardeners, we have much in common.

So what do you think?

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