Hydrangea flowers as big as my head

Giving up may help you move forward.

Giving up gets such an unnecessarily bad rap.

I’ve neglected my gardening for most of the summer. I don’t do vegetables, just perennials, with a few annuals in pots. This year, the deer have been voracious, eating things they never touched before. Even my makeshift deer “fencing”–rows of fishing line stretched across the flower beds–have been trampled. So I gave up.

Giving up- this year, the deer won.
Tiny hydrangea blooms left this year after deer devoured all the big blooms.

Giving up on gardening came first.

I became a gardener when I first planted marigolds and petunias in front of our first house over thirty years ago. I was such a novice, I didn’t know the difference between an annual and a perennial. I didn’t know certain flowers needed sun and others needed shade. All I knew about planting flowers was you dig a hole, stick the flowers in it, and water.

When my garden bed became a mass of bright yellow and hot pink, I was hooked.

I don’t know when (or if) I got hooked on writing. What I know is I’ve devoted so much time to it lately, I haven’t had time to miss my gardening.

Nature abhors a vacuum, right? Take away gardening and writing fills the void.

My “writing” includes doing some updates to this website (did you notice?), creating my guided meditation video (free to subscribers; did you receive the link?), “guesting” on a podcast (I’ll let you know when it airs), building my social media platform, and, occasionally, transcribing actual prose.

When I started writing over twenty years ago, I knew nothing. After a long hiatus, when I started writing again in 2016, I knew even less. Well, more accurately, I continually discovered how much there was to learn, so the ratio of what I knew to what I didn’t know increased tenfold. (Here’s an example of one of my first blogs about gardening. Not horrible, but not great, either.)

This past week, although my creative mind has been churning out ideas, the mechanics of writing–for an audience reading a literary or mainstream publication–got the best of me. I gave up.

Giving up on writing came next.

Don’t worry–I’m not going to quit writing. I’m just going to take a day or two to putter among my poor eaten hydrangeas and weathered iris stalks and pachysandra bed overgrown with weeds.

By tomorrow, I’ll be refreshed and ready to dig into my writing again.

Giving up is just what I need to move forward.

Giving up isn’t always a bad thing. It could be just what you need to move forward.


  • Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

No Comments

  1. Jack Herlocker on September 10, 2019 at 10:38 PM

    I was working on a whole “You can’t give up now!” speech when I got to the end and saw this is just a reprieve for you. Also, your initial gardening method and my current one sound like a good match. 😊

  2. Karen DeBonis on September 11, 2019 at 12:12 PM

    I’m giving up for a day or two, not quitting, so you can rest easy, Jack! I assume Deb is the real gardener between you two? Someone has to take care of your beautiful landscape!

    • Jack Herlocker on September 11, 2019 at 12:42 PM

      Deb, alas, is so susceptible to poison ivy that she has been prohibited from doing *anything* outside except admire the flowers. (“But I just pulled a couple weeds!” she wailed several years ago, as we were slathering goop on her blistered arms.) Nope, heavy lifting (literally and skill-wise) has been done by pros, who know what plants work best in which spots, which ones take some patience (like our hens & chicks, which were marginal when first planted, kinda okay sorta last year, and are just happy and bright and growing magnificently this year). Me, I shop for plants, read the stickers, take them home and stick them in the ground, water them frequently for the first couple weeks, and sometimes get interesting results. And I double-down on annuals that refuse to die! Day lilies and iris are AWESOME, but have to be replanted every couple years or they take over.

      • Karen DeBonis on September 11, 2019 at 5:42 PM

        Poor Deb. I had poison ivy once- that was enough! I love hens and chicks but have never been able to get them to take. I’m gradually replacing most of my perennials with shrubs- much less maintenance!

  3. Carrie Eberlin on September 11, 2019 at 1:30 PM

    Great blog post, Karen! I would love to learn to garden. Your flowers are beautiful, it must be therapeutic. (: Carrie

    • Karen DeBonis on September 11, 2019 at 5:44 PM

      Thanks so much, Carrie. Gardening is very therapeutic. It’s just me and mother nature!

  4. Gail Boenning on September 11, 2019 at 5:41 PM

    Beautiful hydrangeas! I don’t grow them, but my mother-in-law has several lush bushes that I admire. 🙂 I recall reading many things about the necessity of pauses–in music the pauses in between are as important as the notes–or something like that?! Enjoy the break Karen!

    • Karen DeBonis on September 11, 2019 at 5:45 PM

      I love that about pauses. When I had my website The Well-Nested Life, my tagline was, “Put a pause in your day.” Hmm. I still like that- will have to do a meme or something. lol!

  5. Laura on September 17, 2019 at 11:39 AM

    My Mom is a gardener and I’m a writer. We both admire the work of the other and can’t quite imagine doing it ourselves. Yes pauses are good. I’ve been pausing periodically on my memoir and at first I was admonishing myself for pausing but then I realized that when I went back and wrote the quality of the writing was better. So no more admonishing.

    • Karen DeBonis on September 17, 2019 at 8:57 PM

      No – no more admonishing! I think with memoir, especially, those pauses give us time to reflect on our memories and what we want to say about them. I’m back full steam ahead now after my pause, so it was helpful. One word at a time…

      • Laura on September 19, 2019 at 12:03 PM

        Thank you. I agree. No more admonishing!

  6. Pandemic Brain - Karen DeBonis on August 11, 2020 at 8:16 AM

    […] was pretty discouraged, as I get sometimes. Building a name for oneself as a writer is not for the faint-of-heart. And the pandemic adds […]

Leave a Comment