You can’t shovel snow with the handle.

A wise friend made a point with me last week. My friend sent me a photograph of a snow shovel ( a tool with which I am all too familiar). The caption said, ‘This is a great tool. Unless you’re holding the red end. Then you’re going to be frustrated.’ I love it when someone drops a truth bomb on me. OK, not really. I am annoyed at first and then, seeing the spirit of love and compassion with which it was intended, the truth of it hits me. I start examining my life. Then, and only then, do I love the truth bomb.

Anyone, who has ever bundled up like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and donned snow boots a size too big to make room for wool socks, knows that shoveling snow is a frustrating experience. You get hot and sweaty, and at the same time your nose runs and your face freezes. You want to wear gloves, but your dad insists on mittens, so you don’t get frost bite (flashback). Snow in the Pacific Northwest is often heavy and wet.  By the time you run your shovel across the drive, it’s too heavy to lift. A berm develops forcing you to lift and throw the snow. You kick yourself for not throwing it to start with. You fall over from kicking yourself. It starts to snow again, and you know with certainty that you will be back here again in twelve hours to do the whole thing over again.

While I don’t shovel snow with the handle literally, I do make it more frustrating than it has to be. The fact is that I don’t really want to shovel snow—ever. I want snow. I love snow. But I want to sit by the window, drinking hot chocolate, reading a book (or writing one), and admiring the lovely fat flakes falling in my yard. So that’s  what I do. That is until I realize that even in four-low it’s going to be a challenge to get the Jeep over the snow drift that has grown to bumper height. I could probably finish  shoveling the driveway in half the time I spend bemoaning the fact that I have to do it. Lamenting the reality of an inevitable, and unpleasant, job is definitely shoveling with the handle.

I want to shovel snow!
-Said no child ever.

While I am basking in the peace and quiet of a snowy morning, I am already praying in the background that it will melt before I have to shovel it. When I do that, I take a break from the present. The present is calm and glorious—and fleeting! I am hoping the snow will go away before it has to be shoveled. I don’t know with any certainty if it will stay or melt. I don’t know if it will snow more. It’s 4 am. Why am I worrying about that when I could be fully present in that moment? Worrying isn’t going to change a thing. It surely won’t melt the snow. The sun won’t be high in the sky for hours. I am missing the joy of the present moment worrying about the future—shoveling with the handle yet again.

A bad workman blames his tools
-French Proverb

Sometimes I also play the resistance game. It’s probably going to snow more. Besides, I tried shoveling (with the handle) and I didn’t make much progress, none at all actually. Clearly this isn’t going to work. I bet they don’t shovel driveways in the Arctic Circle. They get way more snow than we do. Do I really need to shovel? I think not. I didn’t shovel yesterday. Nothing has changed. We’re fine. Eventually it will warm up anyway, so shoveling is a waste of time. Turning the shovel around won’t change that line of thinking.

If you really want to do something,
you’ll find a way.
If you don’t,
you’ll find an excuse.
-Jim Rohn

The problem is not the shovel. The shovel works fine. It has for centuries. The problem is the operator. Is shoveling snow hard work? You bet (It would be a great gym concept, actually. ShovelFitness!). When I turn the shovel upside down by resisting, worrying, or wishing it away, I make it harder than it has to be. That makes it easier for me to quit. The question is whether or not I really want to clear the driveway. If I don’t, I need to own that and not blame it on the tool. I also need to own the consequences of that decision-being stuck at home behind a growing snow drift.

Is there a snow shovel in your life?

Copyright 2022 Catherine Matthews

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