It was late. I had a few hours before my husband would pick me up from my crappy job and he could not come soon enough. What made things even worse was that it was my turn to do “carts,” a part of the job that had me gathering in ALL the shopping carts from the parking lot. Even though I had done this task many times, and well, it was one I still loathed beyond reason. Why did I have to be the one to do it the last two hours of my shift? Why did I have to work SO late? WHY was it that I never got to leave at a normal time? I silently complained a few moments more and then went outside.
As usual I started on the smaller side of the lot, making sure to round up all the carts from the hard to reach spots where our genius shoppers had parked them. Once that area was done I’d clear the more conventional spaces and gradually work my way across the lot. As the hours wore on and the cart numbers thinned out I started to feel different. Not just tired, but satisfied. Because of my hard of pushing and gathering, the carts no longer blocked parking spaces and were finally lined up in an orderly way. Customers could also get them more easily, a goal I strived for. By the time my shift was over I was feeling MUCH better! Not only was I DONE for the night I had also DONE something constructive, and that was enough to get me through the last grueling hours of my shift.
I don’t blame you if you readers find this a little silly. They were just carts, after all. How happy can pushing metal make anyone, really? A lot, actually. As this website has pointed out before, people who exercise on the reg do tend to have less stress. Many people (my lifelong runner of a father included) swear by it, claiming that exercise makes your body simply too tired to stress over life. But what they don’t realize is that, silly or not, this notion has been around much longer then the exercise craze.
Chop Wood, Carry Water.
While the origin of this saying appears unknown, we do know the complete saying is “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” The shortened version is a staple utterance of my fathers and it was not until I had my crappy job that I saw the wisdom of it. So what does it mean?
On the surface it seems to convey that we should do menial chores no matter what our spiritual status is. But if we think about this phrase a moment we see that what it’s really saying is that we need to take pleasure in the chores. By doing them it gives our mind something to focus on other then our stress. But more importantly, it gives us a chance to live in the moment, something we have a hard time doing.
We get so tangled up in the fabric of life that we barely take the time to notice the threads that weave it, and those mind focusing chores are some of the HUGEST threads. They connect us to the “am” instead of the “was” or “will be,” while also giving our bodies that much need stress-reducing work out.
But I think one of the biggest pluses of doing mindless tasks is that they let our mind decompress and think more clearly. Got a problem you just can’t seem to solve? Find solutions while washing the dishes. Can’t figure out how to start that project you always wanted to? Get ideas while mowing the lawn. Need to write a paper and can’t get passed the title page? Think about it while folding laundry or walking the dog. Doing something unrelated to whatever you’re writing is a GREAT way to get ideas. I do this ALL the time, in fact. Especially when I have done all the research but can’t seem to get started. I’d be in the middle of pushing a cart and BAM! An idea would hit me.
Even though I eventually quit to pursue my dream of writing, I walked away with a great anxiety reliever and a reminder that sometimes it’s the little things that make the big things that much better. Thank you.
Dream Well! Dream Positive!
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/boutmuet/3400313680