Delilah’s Mirror Episode 14 Sometimes It Just Ain’t Gonna Be Pretty

Last March (2002), I dug a flower bed and planted some flowers.

I have traditionally not shirked at manual labor, nor have I ever thought to take a break while doing heavy work. It’s not efficient to take a break, it messes with my rhythm, it drags out the work that much longer, I fear I may not go back and finish the job if I take a break, and I want to see the fruits of my labor NOW.

But that day, for whatever reason (probably the breakfast of chipped beef on toast and cinnamon rolls), I was having a problem digging my flower bed. I was out of breath and sluggish – something that rarely happens to me.

So, in spite of my guilt and defiant spirit, I took a break. I got some water and read a book. I had to. I had gotten a third of the way through my chore and I couldn’t keep going; I was weak. The chore seemed insurmountable, but I also couldn’t leave it. I craved flowers in my yard more than I wanted to quit.

My break lasted about ten minutes before I felt good enough to go back to work, and I went slowly. Gradually, my old strength returned as I worked and I thought about the anomaly of my having taken a break.

While I was digging that bed, my yard and my person were wrecked. There were tools and dirt everywhere. I was a hag, and I stunk. Mud slithered under my fingernails and in the middle of the chore, I was forced to stop. I wanted to lie down on my driveway and sleep. The injured earth bled wet clay and exposed muddy concrete. It took great concentration to keep going and replace the turf with a cocktail of potting soil, compost, peat moss, and fertilizer that I mixed by hand with a trowel in a 5-gallon bucket. I had to drag innumerable pounds of discarded clayed sod to the field across the street where I could dump it many times over. My body ached. The fact that I NOTICED was significant.

Then came the planting of the violas, and I realized that however much trouble the digging had been, and how weak I was, and how much I resented my body at that moment for “failing” me, and how ugly the doing of it had been – the end result was that I had a beautiful flower bed, with rich soil made pretty by its fecundity and decorated by purple, yellow, and white violas. The ugliness of the task had been necessary to the end result, which was beauty.

No, it had been difficult and ugly and stinky – and I had had to take a break, which shamed me.



My flower bed got done. Not only did I finish that bed, I mowed the lawn (an extra hour’s work I hadn’t planned on) so it would look better.

Low carb is difficult. It’s not pretty sometimes. Cheating, or “taking a break,” is not efficient, it messes up the rhythm, and it drags out the work that much longer. One just may not go back and finish the job if one takes a break, and most people want to see the fruits of their labor NOW.

The lesson for me that day, however, was this: It might not be pretty, and it might take a little longer than one hoped, and one might take breaks here and there (good or bad), but the job gets done as long as the commitment, however small, lives.

The next morning, a quiet Sunday in March, when I looked out my front door and saw all the pretty violas in a neat row down my driveway, I knew that it had been worth every minute of agony.

I was not Martha Stewart. There were no fresh gloves, designer tools, and a pretty white blouse and khaki capri pants that never saw a smudge of dirt. I didn’t have nice soil (pre-dug and pretreated) to work in and I had to struggle with every hole I made. I wasn’t feeling well because of the mess I had made of my breakfast. I didn’t finish in the timeframe I had set for myself. In fact, nothing about the project went smoothly. It wasn’t pretty at all…

But it turned out exactly as I had envisioned.

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