Friday, April 4, 2014

When Your Therapy is Sh-t...

Therapy comes in many forms.

Black leather chaise lounges and bearded, cigar-smoking psychologists may be somewhat passe, but the paid professional who listens, advises, suggests, (gently) prods, and tells you your hour is up is not.

Noticeably, however, this once private, near-monologue of disclosures and discoveries has become very public: too public, perhaps. In our pill-popping, post-it on Facebook, Tweet-it-on-Twitter, snap-it-on-your-mobile, expose-all society, "therapy" is everywhere--and with it, all those private affairs. We post in public venues to share and celebrate our accomplishments, and yes, our woes and irritations;  call it Facebook-therapy. We justify disclosing our (in)discretions on various grounds: empowering others; being honest; taking responsibility to be healthy and whole (once again). But I think most people post to receive some kind of affirmation--and this, in my humble, non-professional opinion, perhaps leads us to become too addicted to affirmation. What happens when we don't receive it? A recent study has linked lower self-esteem to Facebook use.

Advances in biomedical technology and drug therapy have greatly democratized therapy: a panoply of spring pastel-colored pills abound! Pink pills for anxiety, little blue ones for depression, yellow for OCD. Happiness has become yet another commodity--one to be taken with a full glass of water! (With all due respect to those for whom drug therapy offers substantial relief and, it must be said, the opportunity to live.)

This commodification of happiness appears in other ways. Our wellness-conscious society has democratized not-so-new types of therapy: yoga, meditation, zumba, and exercise writ large have become our barometers of not simply physical but mental health as well. I admit that ten days away from running (bum knee) and the gym and I have descended into a pit of woe and misery.

That populist instrument--the ubiquitous mobile--has made finding people who readily talk about their therapy / psychotherapy/ couple's counseling / addictions both shocking and shockingly easy. Yesterday as I made my way to the front garden, I heard a male voice--disembodied at first--discussing to a friend the fact that his girlfriend kicked him out after weeks of tension, argument, and suspicion. He was feeling blue, he told his friend, but was trying to get from day to day by overloading himself with work obligations. I tried not to listen, but his booming, baritone voice made it difficult not to hear. A man suddenly appeared: a workman, across the street. He looked at me. I panicked and looked at the ground. He lowered his voice out of embarrassment, perhaps, or a sudden need for privacy. But then, as if I did not exist, he resumed speaking in his need-to-be-heard-in-this-large-and-crowded-lecture-hall-voice roughly 45 seconds later--about his degree of complicity in the doomed relationship. (Hey, at least he was mature enough to admit his own shortcomings.)

Like this workman, I, too, was in desperate need of therapy earlier this week, weighed down with concerns of various sorts. So I took a few mental health days and wallowed in my sh-t.

No, not metaphorical sh-t. Actual cow sh-t.

Yes, dear reader: I played in the garden (I despise that phrase, "work in the garden," for it signifies something that gardening decidedly is not) and, in doing so, discovered that playing in cow sh-t is an excellent form of therapy.

Winter finally and rapidly retreated in the mid-Atlantic and this week we were treated to warm temperatures and bountiful sun. I had to capitalize on the moment before more plants began to poke up from the ground and so laid 1,200 pounds of composted cow manure in the front sun and rear shade gardens.

By the way: NEVER apply fresh cow manure to your garden beds: the nitrogen will burn your plants and their roots--in other words, it will kill them--and will impede or even prevent seed germination. You MUST ONLY use composted cow manure, which will slowly release nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium down into the soil. And if you are applying the manure to already planted beds, either top-dress the beds, or, if you are certain you won't disturb tender plant roots, then you may work the manure into the soil.

I know there are metaphors galore regarding surface sh-t and deep sh-t, but I leave those to you.

For now, I simply relish in the fact of feeling better, more grounded, as I now stand ankle deep in cow sh-t.