As part of acclimating to the much slower pace of my new environment, I have set a mental goal of accomplishing something significant, preferably physical, each day. I will not allow myself to be a couch potato watching 12 hours of TV a day and then go to bed mad at myself. A walk, a brief workout, some yard work does the trick. Just an hour of my day and I go to bed feeling accomplished, if only in a small way. It’s part of dealing with chronic illness, keep challenging yourself.
This morning I stepped out onto the deck and surveyed the trees surrounding the yard, Pretty barren. Yup, today I would do the leaves.
I went inside and threw on Jeans, a Henley shirt, and a heavy sweatshirt. I searched for my headphones, grabbed my phone off of the charger and headed outside. It was a cold day but I knew that once I was moving I would be fine. It is sad that I had to even think about that but as my condition has progressed I have grown sensitive to cold. Just another thing to deal with I guess.
As I head to the garage to grab my gear I look back and see Mom in the picture window. She looks happy. Happy that someone is there to help her with the yard since her husband died. Happy that she didn’t have to ask me to do it (she never would) and happy that I motivated myself to go out into the cold. I’ve been moping around the house lately and she knows that I need to snap out of it.
The work went smoothly. Clearing leaves is mindless work. I knew that I wouldn’t get it all done today but I could put a good dent in it. Headphones blasted a Spotify playlist into my ears, quieting the roar of the leaf blower. I barely notice the leaf blower going side to side, as if unaware that I was the one operating it, switching hands periodically to ease the fatigue in my forearms. I became fascinated with small details in front of me, like the random leaf that refused to submit to the onslaught of my blower and clung fiercely to the ground before finally yielding. I began to ease into a familiar Zen-like state where I do my best thinking. It happens a lot during yard work. Usually, my mind races and my thoughts barrage me like locusts on a windshield. In this state, they flowed like lava. As I worked I found my problems were right there with me, waiting to be addressed if I had enough yard to handle them all. I was in the right frame to sort them out. I savor and enjoy such moments, they are so very rare.
I have been in a funk lately on the heels of some disappointing medical news. While not normally prone to depression, this news came from so far out of left field that it shook me a bit. And for the first time in a while, I was thinking as if ole Superman had finally gotten himself in deep. I was in my own head thinking about my expiration date. I was feeling bad for myself. But the zest in the crisp Autumn air reminded me of the days when I had unshakeable faith that things would work out. As I worked in my father’s yard I thought of his eternal positivity and envisioned sitting on the wall and talking, like we used to. I thought of my children and how there were so many things I wanted to tell them. I focused on things that I wanted to do, see in my family and milestones to witness. I thought more about life in my years and not of years in my life. I canceled the pity party and committed to change my attitude.
All this from a fall day and a leaf blower? It’s hard to explain. It’s the act of working, which I miss so much. It’s being outside, where I have always been most comfortable. It’s 3 hours of yard work and a significant dent in a huge task. It’s the ache in my muscles. It’s the sense of accomplishment. All of these things showed me glimpses of the kid who stayed outside in the yard, long after everyone else went in. He would stand in the yard arms back, neck back, chest out and let the autumn winds flow all around him. That kid loved life, saw God in everything and knew how to be happy. He would want me to do that again.