How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Weed

Psychologists have a term—sublimation—for a process whereby certain negative urges are converted into positive behavior.

I’ve been feeling the need to sublimate.

You see, I’m feeling a lot of intense energy lately, much of it negative and a reaction to the daily news. I read what is going on in my country and the world and I get angry or scared, and frustrated.

For my own sake and for the sake of those around me, I need a way to release that stress.

I need a way to sublimate that energy.

Weeding is the answer. It has taken on new meaning for me this summer.

It’s always been an endless activity here, where the crabgrass and clover run free, amid pavers and garden beds.

I’ve always dreaded it a little, seen it as necessary evil, a fact of gardening life to just be dealt with.

Then I saw this strange little cartoon.

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I really did try to find info about this for purposes of attribution. Nothing.

At first I found it disturbing and peculiar but now, every time I kneel down to weed, it inspires me.

When I weed now, I redirect my negative energy and think about the ripping off of heads and pulling out of spines.

I know this doesn’t sounds very “loving hands at home.” It may shock you.

But I’m not advocating actual, literal violence.

And I’m not fantasizing about large-scale head ripping. I’m not imagining pulling just any spines. Just a few specific spines.

It doesn’t work for everyone–some of the people who frustrate me a great deal are immune because they are, seemingly, spineless . . .

So I focus on the others. One in particular.

It’s oddly cathartic, this directing of negative energy to the task at hand. Where I once flinched at the sight of crabgrass, now I eagerly approach it—it has the best long roots.

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If I work too quickly, the roots break and the weed comes back. Sublimation has made me a better, more careful weeder—I want that whole spine.

I finish a weeding session calmer than when I started. AND my patio looks better than it ever has.

So here is my advice to you:

Don’t hate—sublimate.

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83 thoughts on “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Weed

  1. The first post I read today and you had me smiling in recognition. I so enjoy weeding dandelions and get giddy when I manage to pull the while long root. Enormously satisfying. On a side note, I think you could sell a few t-shirts or at least embroider a quilt square with “don’t hate – sublimate”.

    • I always seem to let dandelions go too long and they get established and see themselves as pets . . . We have enough crabgrass, though, to keep me stress-free for a very long time! I like the idea of a new embroidery project!

  2. You have the perfect solution! I did some weed pulling today but without any enthusiasm. I will try it your way tomorrow. A thoughtful friend gave me a squishy rubber ball with a certain person’s face on it. I can squeeze it when I get vexed or throw it at a window where it sticks momentarily before it plops onto the floor. It’s a little cathartic but weeding with purpose will be more cathartic and useful as well. 😀

  3. Hmmmm…. I think this might work with pruning too. Snip! Snap! Cut down to size! I don’t like the look of that limb – I mean branch – chop! Let’s take the top out of this! Crunch! Oh dear, that was altogether too much fun…

  4. This is too funny, and I’m glad I’m reading it early with my coffee which makes it better. We have had massive amounts of weeds, so I weed several days a week in the morning and must admit I haven’t given much thought to what I’m doing, but when I’m done I’m relaxed and ready for the the rest of the day. I can appreciate some of the folks I envision being on those balls, but it can also be closer to home. I told a friend a couple of things from a meeting I attended, and she turned around and repeated it right to the other folks. I can assure you, I needed to go immediately to the crabgrass after that. 🙂

    • Oh, yes–envisioning the ripping off of heads can have local benefits, too! Next time you pull a clump of weeds, that friend may feel a mysterious pain in her neck and back . . .

  5. Brilliant! I know just how you feel. I feel completely worn down by all the, ahem, “things” that coming down from the top. And just when you think it can’t get any worse…time to go out and weed!

  6. You do know crabgrass is an annual, and is perpetuated by self -seeding? Sometimes close mowing will do the trick for next year. And would that some public figures could be dealt with the same way.

    • I will pass this along to my husband, who does the mowing. I don’t worry about crabgrass in the lawn, although I should–because that’s how it gets into the gardens as well. I hope the 2020 election becomes a “close mowing” . . .

  7. This is brilliant. I have a similar attitude to weeds, unlike my husband who finds the whole thing pointless because ‘they only grow again’. I have observed he has the same attitude towards dusting and hoovering. How convenient.

    • I don’t get nearly the same satisfaction from housework that I do weeding–I’m *sure* it’s the whole imagery of spines and heads that appeals to me! You have a few public figures who you could apply this weeding metaphor to, eh?

  8. I have a few issues with crabgrass but in my garden I’ve got nut grass, not only do you have to get the spine but also the little nut like bulb at the very bottom of the root system, if you don’t get the bulbs it just multiplies into more shoots. So I am very happy when I have removed a nut….🤔😂.. like that word sublimate…

  9. What I love most about the cartoon is the sweet little face of the ‘peanut’ smiling while it says ‘it’s like pulling someone’s head off with the spine intact’, so funny x

  10. I have a whole garden full of weeds to practise on, inspired by you and that macabre, quirky cartoon. I am turning many of my weeds into mulch, so there’s another positive reason to get out and do it.

  11. You cracked me up here. I’ll laugh all night. I LOVE weeding for just that reason. When I was married to my last husband, he asked if I had a vendetta against weeds. I told him no, I was just saving his life. He left me alone to pull heads and spines. I love the cat toy too.

      • He was clueless. I took him to couples therapy and the therapist said he was the carrier and total unaffected by his words and actions. Gods honest truth. He didn’t tell me to leave but clearly hinted at it and the husband didn’t get that clue either. 🙂

  12. Great advice, Kerry! The cartoon made me laugh, but I totally get your sentiment – I’m like you in that respect, I have negative thoughts about the very same things/people, even though I’m on the other side of the pond. Guess I should learn to sublimate, too.

  13. Excellent advice, Kerry! I have used weeding as a way of calming myself for many years now and cannot think of anything that works as well, except maybe bed-making/tidying when I use a pillow as a punch-bag.

  14. You know me, I had to give it a go at trying to find the originating cartoonist and I couldn’t. I’d love to see more of her/his work

    Yes, I’ve been experiencing generalized anxiety disorder for a while now. Seriously. When I saw my doctor a couple of weeks ago she suggested a low level drug. I did the research on that and it scared me to death. Forget about that. So now I’m meditating, deep breathing and reading self help books. And now I’m adding weeding to that list! Thanks, Kerry.

    • Well, if you couldn’t find the source then it’s not findable! I feel better about using it without attribution now.

      I do think meditation and stress-reduction has to be preferable to meds. And maybe hacking away at your invasive bittersweet? And imagining hacking away at people who are the sources of your anxiety? 😉

  15. I began to like weeding better when I stopped identifying with the weed. I guess I wondered if the plant had a right to live and do its thing. When I was able to answer, Nope, I began enjoying the release of various hostile feelings that weeding provides.

  16. I just don’t watch cable news. I am always busy so I don’t think about all the negative stuff. Right now I have Christmas music on because it makes me feel good. Having this blog keeps me sane.

  17. It is good to turn a problem into a plus. I weed slowly too. Mum’s garden has long grass that creeps under her fence from next door’s garden. I am waging a very long, slow war against it. I pay too much attention to the news too. It has a horribly addictive character.

    • I think all weeding ends up being a long, slow war–we might win the battles of any given day, but the weeds seem to win the war. Still it gives us a means to sublimate the anxieties that come of following the news!

  18. The struggles of order and chaos. If someday the weeding gets beyond me, I shall remove the fence and let the deer and groundhogs take over. Meanwhile, voting is one way of weeding our politicians out of office. I hope to have some better seeds to plant in the future. With all the manure being spread about you would think that the garden of public affairs would be growing robustly. Enough on that metaphor. -Oscar

      • We open our polling station… As to fraud, other than Republican gerimanderred districts and filling in absentee ballots for folks… I do not believe much actual fraudulent voting goes on. I think the mob mentality and gullibility of the voters is more the issues. That is the weed-field ripe for the Internet/Social Media.

  19. An excellent theory – I find watering the plants quite cathartic but not weeding as yet. Still “sublimation” is much needed. I watch the news in German or read their online newspapers it gives me good language practice and another perspective from some of the tirades being published in other countries at present!

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