My front yard as a metaphor for my life.

We rent. I’d love to own again, but circumstances (and consequences of some poor decisions on my part) have not been conducive.

Unfortunately, one of the possibilities of renting is being asked to being given notice to vacate. Of the two houses we’ve lived in since we moved to Melbourne, the first we had to leave because a real-estate agent (apparently) didn’t report anything that we reported back to the landlord – and a switch to a new landlord didn’t end well when the file contained none of the wear and tear we’d reported. Lesson learnt: Small children cause damage, and when you report it, ALWAYS put it in writing.

The second time, it seems the landlord got caught out by the GFC and had to sell. We got the notice to vacate two days after Jessica’s funeral. Timing was pretty poor, but could have been much worse, if it weren’t for our rental agents being particularly awesome and going in to bat for us with the landlord.

We landed on our feet when we got this place. It ticked almost every checkbox we had, and we got to stay with our current rental agents. But the front yard…

We live on a corner. The photo that was up on the rental website showed lush green grass in the front yard. That photo is obviously several years old. Each morning as I walk out to my car, I look at the yard, and it irks me. According to the rental agent, the landlord gave previous tenants permission to park on the once-was-lawn. The lawn took an absolute beating from the years of vehicular abuse. The front yard now consists of areas of lush hard-packed dirt, particularly hardy weeds, a partially-exposed-and-likely-defunct watering system, and a rusty white mailbox. There’s a parking area of pavers that are disjointed and surrounded with weeds. This yard has a lot of potential, but it’s taken so much damage for so long.

We’ve been living here for almost nine months now, and every day I’ve lived with yard showing the consequences of the years of abuse… and I’ve done almost nothing about it. I’ve made a few feeble attempts at improving things, but each time I’ve lost hope and given up. Sure, I’ve mowed the weeds when they’ve gotten out of control, but beyond that… I’ve let things stay in their sorry state.

Why do I continue to leave things the way they are?

I guess I’m not sure where to start. I want the yard to be awesome, but to get from where the yard is now to where it could be will take so much work. There are a lot of weeds, and some of those roots run pretty deep. I don’t have a green thumb, and I’m not particularly inclined to ask for help again. People have their own yards to deal with. There are people I could pay to come and fix it, but there are higher priorities.

Truth be told, I don’t have to do anything about it. I don’t own this house. I didn’t cause the damage, so there’s no reason I need to fix it. I can complain about it, continue to mow the weeds, and leave it as an ugly and constant reminder of the past.

I’ve decided not to do that; I’m going to try again.

A few days ago, with the hard-packed ground softened by the recent rain, I dug a six-foot long, six-inch deep channel and re-buried the worst of the exposed watering system. This weekend I pulled the ugly, rusty letterbox out and replaced it with a new letterbox. I pulled some weeds out of the crevices in the footpath, and dug up a bunch of pavers and straightened them.

There are people who have helped me out in the past, trimming back long overgrown plants, dealing with weeds and things I’ve left undone that I should have taken more responsibility for, but I still can’t bring myself to ask for help this time.

It’s not much, yet. There’s still so much to do. It still seems overwhelming, and I’m not even sure if I can undo the years of damage. There are things there that I honestly have no idea how to fix. I know they’re beyond my capacity to deal with alone, but I’m not sure who to ask for help, or if they’re even fixable.

Truth is, there’s a whole world of people whose yards are a mess. Some of them really want to fix it, some are tired of trying… some just don’t care. There are also a whole lot of gardeners with perfectly trimmed yards. Everything looks like it’s just right, with nary a weed to be found. So many seem to spend their time loudly criticising their neighbours for the state of their yard, or insisting that if they tried harder they could have a better yard, or they get together with other gardeners and complain about people who won’t fix their gardens…

Perhaps their neighbours might just need someone to be with them while they work on it. Maybe they’ll need a lot of help to get things in order; or they might never get things sorted out. Even if they can’t get their yard in order, the world might be a slightly better place for asking a neighbour “need a hand with your yard?”

For now, I’m going to keep working on what I can work on, with some small changes each day. Perhaps in time I can be proud of my yard. I also need to deal with my garage, and there’s no-one to blame but myself for that mess.

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