Monday, September 26, 2011

Lessons Learned from Mowing the Lawn

Lessons Learned from Mowing the Lawn
or “How to deal with shit”

Author’s note: Please excuse my heavy use of the word “shit” in this essay. When I talk to my son, I use the word poop. But poop does not convey the full meaning of what I’m trying to express. So I chose to write this using the word shit to be as accurate as I can. I know the word shit is offensive to some people, so if this includes you, I ask for your forgiveness. Or maybe you can just do the opposite substitution and read the word poop whenever you see shit. Or if it is really offensive, maybe just click away and forget I ever wrote this so it doesn't taint your image of me as a person.  You can choose whatever works best for you. Humble regards, ~ch.

This weekend I mowed the lawn. I had been away for a few weeks. We have two dogs. My four year old wanted to help, which looks like him holding on to the mower while I try to maneuver it, him, and myself through tall grass while avoiding landmines (aka: dog crap) that you can’t see due to tall grass.

So what seemed like a standard beautiful Colorado afternoon turned into an adventure; filled with excitement, quality time with my son, and a number of lessons about life. Here is what I learned:

• When you don’t keep up with shit, it can accumulate quickly.
• It is sometimes hard to see shit until it is right in front of you.
• It seems like shit is all around us, but it is only helpful to pay attention to the shit you are about to step in.
• Sometimes we can see the shit other people are near. It is only helpful to point out the shit they are just about to step in. Otherwise, we just spend all our time pointing out shit.
• Sometimes, despite your best efforts to warn them, people will still step in shit. It does not good to get disappointed, blame, or worse, say “I told you so.” All we can do is just love them and help them clean themselves up.
• We can’t get so focused on keeping others out of shit, or we’ll step in it ourselves.
• While we can just step over it, we have to clean up the shit that is in our way. Otherwise, we may step in it later when we are not paying attention.

When I talk to people or read the news, it seems like most of the shit everyone is talking about is the economy, what the government is doing (or not doing), money, or jobs. But there is plenty of other shit we deal with that is directly in our control. Lots of the shit that is right in front of us comes from our relationships with our partners, parents, kids, co-workers, and especially our relationship with ourselves.

What shit do you see and are busy pointing at that you don’t need to be right now? What shit is right in front of you that you keep stepping in because you don’t take the time to clean it up? Are you more concerned with pointing out shit in front of other people that you are not paying attention to the shit in front of you?

And of course, I can’t end this without stating the obvious. The grand-daddy of all the lessons. The universal truth. “Shit Happens.” I can’t take credit for this; I think the bumper sticker guru coined it. But what are we doing with the shit? Are we learning from it? Are we cleaning it up? Are we ignoring it and letting it pile up? Or worse, are we just pointing at all the shit and not doing anything about it?

Who knew dog shit could teach us this much? OK, enough talking about shit. I need to get back to cleaning it up.

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