Pushing Along on the Path to Joy

Sometimes it’s wonderful to go old school and do things the way they used to be done. It can remind us of a simpler time when finding the path to joy was perhaps an easier journey. Lately I’ve had a lot of opportunities to choose joy, in fact I’ve even got a joy coach now. How cool is that? One of my co-workers told me the other day that she had a dream that I had just been crowned the International Happiness Champion. That was right before she told me that in the same dream she was bitten on the face by actor Steve Buscemi. I don’t suppose there was much joy in that moment.

I would guess that many people, my face bitten dreamer friend included, see me as a pretty positive and happy guy. I really am…except of course for all those times that I judge myself for not being good enough -OR-  the times that I push myself to extremes that I can’t possibly sustain -OR- the times that I’m so busy getting to the next thing that I forget to have fun in the moment that I am in. All good reason to take a step back and re-assess. All good reasons to go old school at times. All good reasons to ask for help. Sometimes help comes in the most interesting moments. This morning was a morning when I had a chance to feel that energy of the past way of doing things forced upon me and let me tell you…oh the joy!

After a steady rainfall and high winds all day yesterday, this morning arrived with sunshine and a light breeze. I was excited to get up and get outside, first for a workout on the beach and then for some much needed yard work. I had one small complication though. I could barely move. Somewhere along the way in the last couple of days I managed to strain my left hip flexor muscles. As a result of that strain, I had been limping so my glutes had started to seize up and my back was sore. I decided to take a step back and re-assess. 

I remained in bed for an extra thirty minutes and did a round of self-reiki healing on my hip while I meditated. Despite the fact that I resist medications nearly all the time, I decided to seek a little help and I took a couple of ibuprofen to decrease inflammation and reduce the pain. I decided to forgo to trip to the beach, but I really needed to get at least a few things done in the yard.

The person who maintains my lawn at the house in Michigan was on vacation and the yard was sadly in need of mowing. I got my mower out of the shed for the first time in over a year and gassed it up. I pulled the cord about a dozen times and got a whole lot of nothing, except for a sore right arm to go along with my sore left hip. I decided to let the mower sit for a while and take on another project.

The most pressing need was the stone walkway in the front yard. It was full of weeds and over grown grass. Normally I would have taken on that project on my feet, bending over time and time again to pull up weeds and grass patches. In my current state I decided it would be best to put on an old pair of rollerblading knee pads and crawl around on the ground. I also remembered that while we were at my Mom’s last weekend she was weeding with an old kitchen knife. When I asked her what she was up to she told me that her grandfather used to crawl around on the ground weeding with a kitchen knife when he visited family members at the local cemetery. He said it was the best way to do the weeding without having to get up and down and that the knife was the best weeding tool of all times.

So while I was in the house digging out my old knee pads I also dug to the bottom of the knife drawer and found the oldest and the sturdiest knife in the kitchen. Three minutes later I was kneeling at the top of the stone walkway cutting out patches of grass and digging down deep to the roots of dandelions and other weeds. The knife method worked miraculously and the knee pads prevented me from ever having to stand up, which is currently the most painful thing I can do to my hip flexors. The whole experience became like zen-surfing for me. Each time I have weeded that walkway in the past 15 years all I could think of was how much further I needed to go until I was finished. Today all I could think about was how awesome it was that I was using the same method that my maternal great-grandfather, Valentine Polacek used many years ago. I actually enjoyed myself while weeding! I thought about calling  my new happiness coach and telling him how much progress I was making already! Hopefully he’ll read this and he will know.

When the weeding was done I hobbled back up to my feet with a great sense of satisfaction. I bagged up the weeds and the old grass patches and I went back to the mower that didn’t want to start. It still didn’t want to start. I really needed to get the lawn mowed, or at the very least the front yard. My neighbor was out of town (he’s the one who maintains my lawn) so I decided to look around in his back yard and see if his mower was accessible. I found an old mower along the opposite side of his house, but it had sat out all winter long so I had little hope that it would be any more friendly than mine. It wasn’t. I took a walk back to his shed and opened the door. Inside the door sat one of those old school non-motorized push mowers. I had heard that these push mowers were making a comeback in these days of green solutions. I decided I’d give it a try.

I rolled the push mower out to my front yard and started rolling it across my lawn. It made a delightful buzzing sound as the cutting blades turned and the wheels rolled smoothly. It didn’t exactly do a perfect job of cutting my long and mangy grass, but it did an adequate job. It certainly was good enough. There seemed to be a pace at which the push mower worked at its best. When I went too slow and the blades didn’t turn fast enough to cut the blades of grass. When I went too fast the mower just skipped across the lawn without trimming the blades of grass. When I went just the right speed the tips of the grass blades jumped into air free from their roots and floated peacefully back down to Mother Earth. They didn’t get violently tossed into a vortex of mulching like they would have with my power mower. I found myself enjoying this old school approach to what could have otherwise been a chore. In fact I even forgot about the fact that my hip had been hurting so much that I couldn’t even walk when I woke up.

When I was done mowing the front yard I leaned the push mower against my favorite little tree, a Japanese dwarf red maple that I planted about eight years ago. I pulled a pair of trimming shears out of my back pocket and started trimming some of the new growth off of the maple. It is my favorite yard project and I always save it for last so I can look forward to it while I am doing all the other things that I prefer less. As I was trimming the red maple I started to realize that it was no more fun than any of the other tasks I had just finished  that I normally would have preferred less. By going back to old school methods and not rushing through my chores I was able to find a new sense of joy in all the moments.

When I was done with my maple trimming I looked out across my newly manicured front yard. The sun was shining brightly and the moment was perfect, even though the grass had not been perfectly mowed and there were some weeds still in the walkway. There was perfection in the imperfection. I looked back at the mower as it leaned on the red maple and I glanced at the kitchen knife that was stuck in the ground next to the path. I felt connected to the past, yet very alive in the present. Buried in the the cedar mulch at the base of the maple was a garden rock with a word carved into the face. The rock was a gift from my mother a few years back when Christiana and I started our new path. The word on the rock was Joy. I thought to myself, “What a nice resting spot for this little push mower…and what a fine way to end a day of old school chores…”

Maybe the path to joy isn’t more complicated than it used to be? Maybe it’s just a matter of how we choose to travel on the path? On this day, I am grateful that I was steered to choose the old school ways, and in the end I found a bundle of Joy…



About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at www.emergingintojoy.com for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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2 Responses to Pushing Along on the Path to Joy

  1. Diane Onixt says:

    How we choose to use the path-thank you. I needed an upper today I hope your body has healed. Your friend Diane Onixt

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Cathy Slabaugh says:

    Love this, Jim! The picture is so perfect. I agree that sometimes the old ways are better. I think u are experiencing the joy in doing things and not only in the results! Someone also told me about weeding with a screwdriver. Same idea as the knife. I have a few “old” yard tools that were my parents’. I love working with them! Hope your hip heals soon. In my humble opinion u still push yourself too hard sometimes. Love u, Mom in law Cathy

    Sent from my iPhone


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