In the last few weeks, most of my spare time has been spent with a leaf blower, a rake and the endless onslaught of leaves. Lest you imagine I live on the Ponderosa or Tara, I assure you, I do not. I have a small yard and despite having had the HUGE maple tree in my yard taken down last year, I still have two pretty hefty trees, plus I am surrounded by neighboring mature maple trees that don’t hesitate to send their leaves my way.
Now I could hire someone to do this work, yet somehow-maybe because it isn’t heavy lifting (think shoveling snow after the blizzard) – I think I can do it myself and I am determined to do so.
Yet, I seem to be getting nowhere. I have worked an hour or more each day for approximately two weeks. I blow the leaves, the wind blows the leaves back, the trees drop some more leaves. I come in and use a heating pad on make back, nurse the blooming tendinitis in my elbow, ice my bad shoulder. All the while the wind blows and I watch the continuing dance of leaves, like whirling dervish’s laughing at my misery.
Back out I go, every day, imagining this will be the last day-the last weekend-the last time, yet obstacles to my progress abound. Leaves hide in corners behind and under hosta-simply impossible for my light weight blower to effectively clean out. Due to lack of rain, the dry flower beds provide a fresh coat of dust, frequently accompanied by wild leaves, covering my face in a fine powder of dirt.
I come in, wash up, ice down those achy joints, and steel myself for a return act. But this morning as I stood outside coughing out dust and pulling leaves out of my hair, I looked up; the sky is bright vibrant blue and the blazing sun is peeking through the half-dressed trees. Suddenly, I am awash with gratitude for the sky, for the leaves and even for this body that complains sometimes, yet continues to serve me and allow me to challenge myself.
This gratitude is blunted by the sense that I am fighting a losing battle. I have no sense of reaching my goal- a leafless yard. Today the wind switches direction and in a single gust blows the evidence of my labors back in my face-again. I wipe my eyes and as I reach into my pocket for a tissue, another crumbled one- falls into the leaves. I stop as I bend to pick it up. I decide to leave it and let it provide a marker for my process. I really need to know that I am not just blowing the same leaves over and over.
The white blob bobs along with the leaves through the grass, down the driveway and into the street. Suddenly with this marker I am able to see my progress and I relax- I return to my place of grace-when I can accept progress over perfection. Yes, there are still leaves clumped behind dried ferns, stringy peony plants and those pesky hosta. Not to mention the throngs of leaves clinging to the rose bush as if Velcro has replaced blossoms. However, that single errant tissue has created a paradigm shift and I can see progress as it joins the leaves and together they flutter and roll along into a pile that I now realize is getting bigger and bigger.
Sometimes when we feel we are up against impossible odds- a seemingly endless divorce, a painful illness, a challenging work assignment- it is easy for us to feel as if we aren’t getting anywhere. A simple marker- a single focus can give us a larger perspective that allows gratitude to enter our conscious and gives us the ability to see how far we have really come.
© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.