This weekend I mowed the lawn. I realize that’s nothing to write home about, but as so many seemingly mundane life tasks do, it got me thinking.
First of all, I gotta share…I haaaaaaaaate mowing the lawn. It was one of my two required chores growing up and I despised it then. My yard growing up had tons of curvy edging and trees, and there was no good way to tackle the job. And, it seemed, I ended up tackling it wrong. (If you’re curious, the other chore was wheelbarrowing wood from the wood pile into the garage and stacking it. It’s dirty, gross, and full of bugs and slivers.) I tolerate mowing the grass now, maybe even don’t mind it all that much, especially with a grown adult’s perspective of it.
Still, as I pulled the lawnmower out of the shed this weekend, my very first thought was, “Ugh. I hate mowing the grass. And why is this thing so heavy?!? I’m pretty sure I’m breaking it hauling it down these concrete steps and Marty is going to be so mad.” Ha. But then, my second thought was, “OK. Now how do I do this?”
I swear, I wheeled the mower to three different starting positions, trying to craft in my mind the best plan of attack for the back yard. I thought, “Well, if I start here, I can do this block, then do that block.” I thought, “Well, if I go in this direction, I can get around that obstacle and also turn around easier.” I thought, “Well, how in the heck does Marty do this? He makes it look easy!” And then I thought, “Well, I guess I better just start this damn thing up and I’ll figure it out.”
And that very decision was the first crack in my icy shell of hatred toward mowing the lawn. Daily crap teaches more lessons than college ever could!
So I pulled the cord and the mower roared to life. I pushed the little thumb drive thing and off it shot, catching me totally off guard. I mean, this thing is fast! I nearly had to run after it to keep up. But I managed to adjust the speed, and off we went on the approach I thought I had all figured out: I’d run along the back of the garage, then turn around and come back up, making neat lines back and forth across the lawn.
Uh huh. That perfectly planned approach always works out just like you thought it would.
(No. Nope, it sure doesn’t.)
I hit the fence line and quickly realized there was no way I’d be able to crank that mower around in a 180 degree turn. So, I veered up the edge of the fence, then awkwardly around the sheds, then up into this mossy area full of divots and holes, then back down the other fence line to my starting place. Even then, I thought, OK, now I can start going back and forth in straight lines.
Not yet! Too close, as a big chunk of grass dug up from spinning wheels. So, another circle around to give myself some breathing room, and I finally started my lines back and forth. I made a few passes and then remembered I was going to have to empty the bag of clippings.
Which, of course was overfull by that point, really heavy and bulky, spilled out all onto the fresh cut grass, and took forever to empty into the yard waste bin while I got myself totally filthy.
Are you getting the picture here on this metaphor yet? Great, but we’re not done yet.
I finished up that section of the back yard and then had to think about another section of the lawn and how I was going to tackle that. It’s narrow, there’s edging, and there’s also a big, unruly hedge. But, I thought to myself as I looked at it, at least it’s straight! Oh, how easily we can deceive ourselves.
I started down along the hedge and promptly ran right into it. The mower was careening down the slope and directly into those damn bushes, and I was forced to pull that heavy-ass thing back up the hill a little bit, reorient it, push back down, and repeat it all over again several times.
That straight and narrow isn’t always so straight and narrow, my friend.
Meanwhile, my hands are cramping like crazy, because the thumb drive thing is set way too far down to accommodate my husband’s bigger hands. I’m gritting through it, thinking to myself, I honestly don’t know if I can finish this up without a break, when finally – I see the little lever that allows me to reposition the drive!
Hallelujah! I can now do this free of pain!
At this point, I was actually getting into a groove, thinking, “It’ be a walk in the park to finish up the front yard. It’s smaller, it’s a square, and I can totally do that back and forth in neat rows thing! Won’t it be so nice to have our yard looking all lovely from the street? People will be so impressed!”
Because I know you’re impressed by grass rows. This is important life stuff here.
Well, as you might expect, I pushed the mower down the driveway to the front yard and stood there, once again, with my mouth gaped open, brain gears grinding, wondering where to even start. This was totally me:
I ended up starting at the top, the mower careening down that slope too, made the corner turn, then made the next turn to go back up the slope and promptly got stuck. Yes, stuck. There’s a little retaining wall that separates our yard from the neighbor’s driveway, and somehow, the wheel was spinning into a hole by one of the blocks. I pushed and pulled, gave it a little more gas, tried a few times to get back over onto the thicker grass…and promptly crashed into my neighbor’s truck.
No damage done, it was mostly my hand that took the brunt, and hey! It got me unstuck! Finally able to make my way back up that side of the yard, I was free to make another pass around – just like in the back yard – giving me enough room to finish up in my pretty rows. Ish, really. Pretty-ish. Still mostly squiggly.
I have no idea how long it took me to mow that lawn. All I know is I was sweaty and dirty by the end. But I was laughing, I was kinda proud of myself, and I knew I got the job done.
And that brings us back to the seemingly boring, or even annoying or tedious, tasks and things we do in life bringing us the opportunity for learning, and growth, and even fresh perspective and approaches we can apply to more meaningful things throughout our lives.
I want to be clear I’m not really talking about how doing this crap we don’t want to do teaches us the value of hard work or builds character or whatever. Not the point of this. And of course, sometimes mowing the lawn is just mowing the lawn.
But more often than you think, there are messages we can glean if we pay attention to our experiences, our thoughts, our actions, our responses, that have broader applications to bigger things in our lives than what’s right in front of us.
The very first bit about trying to figure out how it’s supposed to look, and how someone else would do the thing, how they would make it look so perfect and nice – whatever it may be – is kind of a big one. And obviously, it’s something I talk about often, because we do this all the time in life. The truth is, all our lawns are different, so how someone else cultivates theirs has no relevance to how we cultivate ours. The very soil is different. (Soil = soul, y’all.) And part of the beauty of each neighborhood, in each city, in each country, is that the yards do look so vastly different.
Just pulling that cord and getting going and figuring it out along the way? Well, isn’t that a metaphor for life? Honestly, whether we like to admit it or not, this is what we’re all doing. Control is just an illusion.
Things moving too fast and feeling like they’re totally off the rails, like you’re just trying to keep up? Yeah, life can be like that too. It’s not just the damn lawnmower that can get away from you. But you can still choose how you handle those situations.
The divots. The holes. The circles round and round. The things not going according to plan. The overwhelm. The ugly mess spilling out everywhere when you were trying so desperately to contain it.
Finding yourself in the weeds.
Fighting through pain, only to finally realize you don’t have to do that anymore, you can get help.
Feeling like you’ve finally got it figured out, only to be presented with yet another challenge.
Completely crashing and burning.
Realizing that the neat rows don’t matter after all, there’s no wrong way to do it, and getting things done however it makes the most sense for you does. Living your life the best way you know how matters.
If you pay attention, you’ll see yourself in these daily chores, events, challenges, reactions, and choices. They’ll often bring things to light, provide insight and answers into struggles you’ve been trying to force your way through, because they offer a new avenue for understanding. You might see another way, or that the way you were doing it was fine after all. You might see a hidden benefit, or a reason to walk away. You might see things can change – you can change. But in any life experience, mundane or not – even when there are stops and starts, even if you really hate parts and pieces, even if you end up sweaty and tired, if you do it the best way you know how and see the very value in that? That’s how you can enjoy your process and smile at the end result.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, as corny as it may sound, life is a lot like mowing the lawn. (Or unloading the dishwasher, or picking up the kids from school, or going grocery shopping – you get it.)
All those little moments are talking to you.
All those bumps, and turns, and obstacles, and easy parts are there to guide you and help you reflect and get it done in the way that’s right for you. That stuff is telling you how to handle your lawn, and reminding you that you can, indeed, handle it. That the stripes don’t really matter. Maybe even mowing the lawn itself right now doesn’t matter.
So, pay attention.
Because it truly doesn’t matter what it looks like, how long it takes, or how exactly you get it done. (Gosh, it never does.)
All that matters that you can take your shoes off, put your toes in that grass and love the feeling that this is your lawn and you love it – weeds and squiggly lines and all.
Need a little help handling the lawn? Or listening to what the moments are telling you? Send me an email anytime, or schedule a call directly below.