How Gardening (and a Touch of Lipstick) Saved My Life

Paola Bassanese
6 min readJun 21, 2022

As soon as I have had my morning shower, I put red lipstick on. My red lipstick is a daily reminder to smile, even though now I don’t even need the reminder anymore as I smile spontaneously several times a day!

The early part of 2022 wasn’t kind to me, but then again I wasn’t kind to either myself nor the people around me, who were worried about my health.

Through months of support from several healthcare professionals and the constant encouragement from loved ones near and far, I managed to pull through and I’ve realised that the activity that kept me focused, grounded, balanced and that, ultimately, gave me back my health, was gardening.

At first I thought gardening was a self-indulgent, middle-class, first-world, privileged past-time, also considering that many people don’t have a garden or outside space (or own a house). I felt embarrassed and considered myself lazy for spending hours pulling weeds from my neglected garden, thinking that while I was doing that everybody else was going to work and there I was, spending idle hours in the garden instead of being a productive member of society.

However, when it comes to our health, being kind to ourselves and especially not judging ourselves have to be the main therapeutic approach of choice. Only then we can start our journey to full recovery, or at least that is my personal experience, as I appreciate that we all are on different journeys.

While I fully appreciate that red lipstick may not be the one-size-fits-all solution to our problems, we all have one thing we can rely on to cheer us up, we simply have to find it or remind ourselves of something that used to bring us happiness. Maybe it’s our favourite pair of socks or our favourite t-shirt, you name it.

My garden in 2019 (left) vs my garden today (centre and right)

So, I might be wearing scruffy clothes, gardening gloves and old trainers (or runners, as they call them in Ireland) as I am tending to my plants, but my red lipstick makes me look well put together and people notice that. In fact, people who walk past my garden and see me “in action”, maybe transplanting some seedlings, smile and…

Paola Bassanese

Author and freelance writer. I work with clients to create engaging communications. Keen forager and on a mission to have a low carbon footprint