On more than one occasion, before hopping in the car or on a plane to go do something important, I’ve found myself doing last-minute yardwork. Truth be told, I hate working in the yard, so it usually slips down the to-do list before a trip. Yet, there’s something grounding about it, something universal. Something that serves to remind me that, no matter what amount of praise or criticism I may receive, I’m still a dude sweating his brains out mowing the yard.
In exploring the reason for this, I think we find something intriguing about our own nature.
As humans, we love having our egos stroked. Hopefully, we’re honest enough with ourselves to recognize it (if you’re not, that problem is well outside the scope of this blog post), even if we don’t always try to fix it. We love being recognized for doing something, especially if we have a large audience. And I’ll admit, I’m the worst of sinners in this regard. If you’ve ever paid me a complement, this is what happens: Sometimes I’ll deflect or diminish it verbally, but I can guarantee you that, internally, I’m totally agreeing with your assessment of how awesome I am. It’s hard to remember that, not 24 hours prior, I was probably a sweaty (and sweary) mess as I fought through the jungle that is the back yard.
It’s an inglorious, almost primeval task. Yet, it’s usually the one job I have where nobody else is depending on the outcome. And, in an odd way, I find myself enjoying that freedom. Nobody else cares whether or not I do a good job at this task I don’t enjoy – yet a missed strip of grass becomes a personal affront to my capabilities as a human being.
And in that dichotomy, there is a grand counterbalance for both over-active egos and highly-developed insecurities. The humbling task becomes a source of pride, the sweat becomes currency spent for an immediate result. Ego is checked, but diligence is rewarded.
It’s a lesson, perhaps, best applied to further areas of our experience. Where do you need to mow the yard?
Update: Though it doesn’t fit into my metaphor, I located this year’s big yellow jacket nest after I posted this. They also located the back of my left leg. You can add “hopping around like an idiot, swatting at demonic hexapods” to “sweaty (and sweary) mess” above. Ow.