My neighbor is a lovely man. He takes our recycling bins in when we are out of town. He has helped us find contractors for house projects. On more than one occasion, I have also seen him helping other neighbors. He is a great guy. But he has one flaw. He is a perfectionist with his driveway. No matter what the season, he ensures his driveway is pristine. He blows grass off in the summer and leaves off in the fall. And in the winter, we see him outside every time a half inch of snow accumulates, no matter the temperature or if the snow is still falling, to remove every flake. Most days I’d rather eat off his driveway than my kitchen floor! The driveway looks great, but we all think he is a little bit obsessive.
In the last few weeks, the Chicago suburbs have been blessed with quite a pile of snow. And without fail my neighbor was out there every hour or so constantly removing any trace of snow. He not only does his driveway, sidewalk, and steps, but he ensures that every ounce of snow is removed from the street surrounding his drive. On the other hand when I worked at an office and had to be out of the house at 8:00 am, the snow piled up all day long until I got home. Then I would struggle to remove the two, three, or five inches of snow that accumulated while I was away. But I learned something now that I work from home. Shoveling snow a few times a day means that the amount of snow shoveled each time is smaller making the weight of the snow lighter and easier to manage, and makes it easier to remove any ice patches forming due to tire treads or footprints. I may be spending more time removing the snow, but the actual effort of removing it is much, much, much easier.
Often times we let our pain, frustration, stress, guilt, or anxiety grow and grow until they are overwhelming. Then we finally get a massage, take some herbs, get some counseling, or go on a retreat. Our efforts alleviate our pain, but it does not remove all of it. There is just too much to go through. We let it pile up and now it is too heavy and large to deal with in one sitting. We need to work extra hard to get our emotions back to an acceptable level, back to a level where we can function. But we have not totally cleared the problem. Like trying to clear eight inches of snow after a long day at the office, the process is difficult, seems overwhelming, each shovel-full is heavy and hard to throw, and we are left with patches that we can not remove. But imagine if you spent a few minutes every day clearing away your anxiety, fear, stress, and frustration. It would not have time to build into something unmanageable.
The key to a clear mind, as learned from a clean driveway, is:
Don’t Let It Pile Up
Work at every day. Don’t wait until you have a nervous breakdown or a major medical issue to force you to examine your life. Address issues as they come up.
Small Loads Make Easy Work
Working on things a little bit at a time makes it easier. Instead of having a major issue to deal with, work on things when they are small. They take less time and are easier to dispel. Waiting until they grow larger makes the work to remove them harder.
Even when things are terrific, take the time to examine what is going on. That little, insignificant annoyance today could become something greater over time. Remove it before it has time to grow. Take the time every day to examine your mental state even if you are feeling blissful.
A benefit of staying on top of your emotional well-being is that you also feel much better. Shoveling away the anxiety every day will keep you from hitting rock bottom. Each day will be better because there are no issues lingering from the day before. You will be starting from a clean slate, which is another benefit. If your mind and emotions are clean, it becomes much easier to spot potential issues as they stand out in contrast to the rest of your peaceful well-being.
This week in Chicago looks to be wonderful. Mild temperatures are promised which may help remove some of the piled up snow. But things can change. The projected rain at the end of the week could easily become ten inches of snow. So I am being prepared. I am ready to take the time I need to keep the snow from becoming a larger issue than it needs to be.
Are you ready to keep your emotional worries from becoming larger than they need to be?