Monday, June 04, 2007

Getting Out of my Own Way

More musings about what I've learned this year...

I'm afraid it's nothing brilliant. What's worse, it's something I was supposed to already know. Worse yet, it's something I know for other people. Well, damn.

When I work with people trying to learn something new or people in desperate straits, I frequently say things like "stop putting barriers between yourself and success." Or, more positively, "let's streamline this process." And I can help people with that. I'm even kind of good at it - making sure they have the appropriate tools and skills to do the thing they want to do, gently redirecting (sometimes transparently) people to a task that is a more appropriate next-task. The general idea is to make the right decision or the right strategy the easy one to choose. This won't always work, but when it could, why create unnecessary difficulty?

But I don't do this for myself, ever. I got seriously ill at the tail end of graduate school. I went to see my teacher to make arrangements for finishing his class while undergoing appalling treatments. His comment was "Andrea, you don't always have to do things the hardest way possible. Take an incomplete." Oh. Right. And it's not as though I got out of grad school yesterday and this is a fresh lesson for me to absorb.

Nope. I'm still at the back of the class on this one. I've been defeated by my own house. And I've decided that it's not my fault -which is always a better position than the "I'm so stupid I can't do these things" position ;) Most recently the culprit has been the lawn mower, and the poor thing has become the metaphor for the changes we're going to be making around here.

I don't mow the grass in ordinary times. There are other tasks I do to contribute to the running of the household, but not that one. Dave did it. Then there were the halcyon years of the kids doing it. Then they grew up and left us, and Dave did it again. Not me. So I -naturally enough- was uninvolved in the purchase of new lawn mowers over the years. Do I care what kind of lawn mower we have?

Well, I should have. We have a lawn mower that I can not start. I'm too bloody short to reach to the end of the cord, and it just won't catch. If someone else starts it, I can mow the grass well enough. But how ridiculous is that? It feels plenty absurd, let me tell you.

I don't even know how old this lawn mower is. But when it dies, I'm going to the lawn mower store (are there such things?) and participating in the purchase of another one. I may never again mow the grass after the completion of this year. I hope I don't, in fact. But I have to be able to. I have to stop letting barriers get erected between me and success. I have to stop participating in placing those barriers. (This is sounding eerily familiar.)

The lawn mower has to go. And all the other "lawn mowers" in my life.


Michael said...

Call me on Friday. I'll come over and start the lawn mower!

Lisa :-] said...

This is funny, because more or less the same thing happened to me when the husband and I were "living apart."

It's not as if I had never mowed the lawn in my life, but it was a job HE did...until he started living only part-time in our home. Then it fell to me. AND our lawnmower was impossible for me to start.

So I insisted we go out and get a new one. One that I could deal with. It was $400 well-invested, for a variety of reasons. Some of them not necessarily having to do with the appearance of our property...

Andrea Rusin said...


And welcome home (almost), Mike. It'll be good to see you.

Michael said...

That assumes I'm not grounded by the bad weather anticipated for tomorrow, or diverted to Milwaukee or some equally godforsaken place.