“If you can design a garden, you can design a life. “– Heather Jo Flores
The first time I heard those words, I was watching a YouTube video and I had to hit pause. I was stunned at my recognition of the painful fact that up to that point I had never thought about designing my life. Rather, I had been largely reactive to other people/outside forces/circumstances that pushed or pulled me in one direction or another. I made choices, certainly, but I did not truly consider what I wanted my life to be. My choices were often more about damage control than desire. Truth be told, I usually thought it was enough to just not be in crisis- not thriving, but not immediately threatened. But that’s not the life I want to live.
I looked around my studio in that moment and noticed how even in that space, space that was for me, I let things come in and pile up and those things (mail, donations to be dropped off, etc.) often hindered my access to tools, materials, and space that I needed just to get my work done. It was suddenly clear to me that my constant struggle to sit down and work without having to tidy up first, was a struggle I could design my way out of. But first, I needed to get clear about what I needed and wanted for myself.
The more I learn about permaculture, the more I understand it as a lens through which I can view everything. Permaculture is about designing living systems that are adaptable and sustainable, from the personal systems of the individual to the systems of our families, homes, communities, countries, and continents. When an individual or a system is using more resources than can be replenished in a reasonable amount of time, it is considered unsustainable. Whether the resource is time, money, physical energy, or something else- when there is a deficit there are consequences.
Zone 0 or 00 refers to the self in permaculture design. Without proper self-care we are unable to sustain anything else; our relationships suffer, our immediate environment suffers, our community suffers, and our world suffers. Sustainability begins within and spreads forth from there. I believe that designing your life is an excellent way to engage in self-care at a fundamental level. It gives us an opportunity to get curious and ask ourselves what we value and what we deem worthy of our finite time and energy. To ask in the words of Mary Oliver, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Of course, it goes without saying that plans do not always come to fruition, and that is where adaptability comes into play. The details may shift and change, but the purpose of designing your life is to get clear about what matters to you and what does not.