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As the caregiver of my flower beds, I have a dubious track record, but things are looking up. This image may look like a chaotic green bit of nothing, but I assure you it is an exciting development. This is a tuft of larkspur that will invade the yard with blue and pink and purple flowers in April. I seeded for larkspur several years ago, and we get more every year, but last year I did something that proved to be a bad idea, so I worried it wouldn’t come back.

The thing I did was work too hard. I decided to mulch the beds. When Mark came in on the tractor I scooped up the cut grass from the top of the blade cover and mulched the beds with the grass cuttings. I hoped to add nutrients to the soil and suppress the bermuda grass that was creeping into the beds. The seeds from the mulch got into the beds and made more grass, and the thick pads of grass threatened to smother my larkspur and other seeds.

I have moved the mulch somewhere else, and all the work has gotten me about where I started, except I still wondered whether I had smothered the seeds. Imagine my delight in finding this green tuft declaring unequivocally that my larkspur are not about to be defeated by my failed experiment.

Sometimes despite our best intentions we do things that work against what we are ultimately trying to achieve. We labor and sweat and strive, and end up where we started or worse. We can’t predict which work will turn out this way because none of us can accurately predict the future. We make a judgment call the best we can and deal with the imperfections in our choices as they unfold.

You want to be the best caregiver, so maybe you make some changes to your mother’s bills to simplify things, having the payments drafted automatically, since she is finding it confusing to deal with payments. You were looking to make her life better, but she gets mad. She accuses you of trying to take her money and to make things confusing so she won’t be able to tell you have stolen from her.

You know she is not to blame. It’s just that terrible disease talking, but still her words pierce your heart. After all your effort, things are worse. If only you had not … but you did with the best of intentions.

Efforts that backfire are an unavoidable part of giving care, so go easier on yourself. Remember that even when things go awry, sometimes tiny tufts of goodness survive whatever indignities are heaped upon them. We may make things worse, but not decisively enough to keep sprouts from coming up and promising flowers in the spring.

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