It's all about the process
My housemates and I recently moved into a beautiful new house and I’m in love with it. Though I appreciate the opportunities of living in a city like Portland, I’m a small town girl at heart, and need quiet and nature on the regular to stay grounded and sane. This new home offers that respite with a big yard, lots of trees and quite a bit of privacy.
When we were signing the lease, the landlord asked us to stay on top of keeping the yard under control. Nothing crazy, just regular lawn mowing, weeding, and making sure the plants and grass don't overtake the property. I volunteered to be the designated lawn mower and weeder, as I love physical labor and being outside.
However I barely know what I’m doing.
For whatever reason, my mom was adamant that I not mow lawns as a kid (something about me losing my toes to the mower blades or something). And though I did have a mini stint as a “brush hawler” in summer camp as a kid, I’ve never really done much yard work or gardening. It wasn’t until last year, after leaving an 11 year relationship, changing careers and moving to a new city, that I decided I was going be a true independent woman, and do my own yard work. It was quite liberating.
Can I just tell you how fun mowing a lawn is?
I’m probably terrible at it, but it is beyond satisfying to get exercise while seeing measurable results of my work. I’m like a little kid out there! So you can imagine how enthusiastic I was to take on the task of weeding!
...until I started doing it.
Sure, parts of it are super satisfying. I can think of few other activities as cathartic as weeding. You get all dirty and sweaty while ripping stuff out of the ground! However I soon realized that if you go about it the wrong way, you will burn out pretty damn fast. Your back starts to hurt, you get blisters, dirt under your fingernails (among other places), a sunburn, grass stains, etc. Before you know it, you’re completely gassed out with half a garden bed still needing to be weeded. At least that has been my experience.
This really hit home for me the other day while I was attempting to tackle the various grasses and weeds that had taken up residence along the cracks of the pavement in our driveway. I went out there with a tiny shovel and a dull kitchen knife, put on some gardening gloves and proceeded to attack the vegetation with everything I had. I realized quite quickly that these were some deeply rooted weeds, and that I was no match for them, even with my muscles and enthusiasm.
I simply didn’t have the right tools.
Sure, I was making some progress, but in order to get the job done, I was going to need something sharper, and maybe a little guidance from someone who’s done this sort of thing before. I didn’t have access to those things at that moment, so I decided to just do the best I could with what I had.
I slowed down and tried to enjoy the experience of being outside and moving my body. I actually got most of it done, and left the experience feeling pretty satisfied. Yes, there are some spots that need more attention, but I know that I can come back to them at another time when I’m rested, more educated and better equipped.
This got me to thinking about my life and the way I tend to go about things. I realized that the way I tried to attack those weeds is the same way I try to attack life. I get really excited about something, set a goal for myself, and then go at it with everything I’ve got, whether I'm equipped with the right tools or knowledge to back me up. I make a little progress and then I gas out. This has translated into some pretty painful experiences for me - injury, chronic pain, heartache and frustration (to name a few). In some instances it’s caused me to simply give up.
Because, really, what’s the point if it’s so hard and we don’t have the tools to get the job done, right?
However as I move through life and these experiences, I’m realizing that it’s all a work in progress. We've got tools that have served us to get to where we are right now, and maybe they aren’t quite the right fit for the new task at hand, but at least we’ve got something. And so we do our best with what we have. Then we take a step back, reach out for some guidance from someone who’s been there before, and pick up new tools along the way. We then have the opportunity to revisit what we were working on with new eyes, means and support.
There's this text called the Bhagavad Gita, which is considered by many to be a foundational read for anyone interested in the philosophy of Yoga, and Hindu traditions. It's an epic poem about a warrior named Arjuna, and his conversation with Krishna (an incarnation of the divine) about one's life purpose on this planet, among other things. One of the major themes of the text is this idea that we have no right to the "fruits of our labors", only the labor itself.
Quite honestly, I was pissed when I first read that. I work my ass off! Shouldn't I be entitled to the outcomes of that work?
However the more I reflect on this idea (and let go of my ego), the more I like it. I've realized how many times I've created suffering for myself because I got caught up in being "good enough", or "likeable", or my work being "up to par", and how many times I've felt at ease when I simply let go of the outcome, and enjoy the doing of the thing I love so much.
Not to mention how many times the outcomes were better than anything I could have imagined.
So if you're working through some stuff right now, and you maybe feel like you don't know what you're doing, take heart. No one really does. :) We're all just doing the best we can with what we have. And that's absolutely enough! Let yourself enjoy the process, knowing that the outcome is ultimately out of your hands, and that's a gift.