An anecdote

I live in the country, which affords me the ability to do things that I couldn’t do while living in a city, like have a compost bin. My bin sits near the back side of my house and is about ten feet from the stairs that lead to the back deck, making it easy to reach.

Most of the time.

The space between the stairs and the compost bin is what I would call “unimproved land”. During the winter, this is no problem as it’s mostly covered with dirt and dried fallen leaves. In the summer, though, the ground explodes with various weeds, some of which are knee high. This makes the walk to the bin feel like more of a trek than an act of ecological goodness.

The obvious solution would be to get rid of the weeds or cover them, which would require some planning and work.  The opportunity to do this came a few weeks ago, when my husband and I got a delivery of a building material called Item 4 for some work we were doing on another part of the property. There was enough left over to create a path from the stairs to the bin.

Excited by the prospect, I asked my husband to build the path. It would require him taking out our tractor, shoveling a load of Item 4 into its bucket and dropping it down on the proposed pathway. But he was busy with his own projects and couldn’t carve out the time to do this.

I continued to wade through the weeds to deposit our food waste into the compost bin, silently cursing the forest between my legs and eying that pile of Item 4 with the wish I could mentally move it. That is, until yesterday when I decided to take things in my own hands. We have a wheelbarrow and I thought if I could manually shovel the material into it and wheel it over to the bin, I could make my own path.

I started to dig into the pile. The Item 4 was denser than I thought and it took real effort to get enough on to the shovel and then transport it to the wheelbarrow. Little by little I did this until the material fully covered the bottom of the wheelbarrow. Since this material is also very heavy, I knew better than to try to fill up the wheelbarrow, but even the small amount inside made for a rigorous walk uphill to the path. It was with a great sense of relief that I tipped over that first load.

The next time I put less into the wheelbarrow, realizing that several small loads would be easier on my body than that first load I hauled. After about five trips I could see the path taking shape. The sweat was streaming down my brow now and more parts of my T-shirt were wet than dry. I told myself I’d do one more load and then quit. The path would only be about halfway done and what I’d accomplished at that point was already far better than what had been there before.

After I tipped over that next load, I told myself again, just one more load and I’ll quit. I said this three more times until the path reached a flat section of dirt. At this point, I truly was tired and decided to obey my body and stop for the day. I could finish it tomorrow.

My takeaways from this experience:

  1. I have the power to create my own change. This is not a new thought but one I have to relearn over and over. A guest on one of my podcasts told me recently that even when we want to change, we often don’t because we don’t have a compelling reason to do so. I was willing to wade through the weeds, even though I hated doing so, until I’d convinced myself I’d had enough and then looked for a way to change the situation.
  2. Nothing good happens without taking action. I could have waited until my husband had the time to do this project. Yet my taking action to do it myself not only got the job done but left me with a good feeling of satisfaction and increased confidence in my abilities.
  3. Physical fitness is important. I couldn’t have done this project if I didn’t feel I was physically able to do so. I go the gym regularly and while exercising sometimes feels monotonous and boring, it prepared me for the workout I got in shoveling and pushing the wheelbarrow.
  4. Know your limits. My project would have stopped dead if I started off trying to push a full wheelbarrow. I’m not a 6’5” muscleman. I’m barely five feet and close to what people like to call “the golden years”. Making multiple trips with small loads took a long time, but I got what I wanted done. I also knew when to stop, before I risked injury, muscle aches or even a broken nail.

I’m sure you’ve had times in your life when you’ve wanted something done and hoping that someone else would do it for you. The next time it happens, stop and ask yourself, “Can I do it myself?” The answer may surprise you, as taking action may result not only in a job done, but done faster and better than anyone else could have done it. You’ll also give yourself the wonderful gift of self-reliance, which will go a long way in getting you ready to tackle your next assignment in life