It has been the winter of snow in our part of Maine, that’s for sure. Without a snowblower or plow at our disposal, Ed and I have used muscle-power to shovel our entire driveway and turnaround space after every storm, sometimes lifting as much as a foot of heavy, wet snow. Most of the time we do this at 4 a.m. in the dark, so I can leave for work by 5 a.m.
Scenarios like this give one a lot of time to think. The world is quiet and peaceful, with the only sounds being the hypnotic crunch of the shovel and the occasional grunt of exertion. On one such morning, gloved fingers still frozen to the bone, I had a revelation. I had been under the illusion that we were getting rid of the snow, when in fact, we were just moving it around. It would have nice to have had some kind of machine that would have melted the snow and thrown the water off somewhere, or even just evaporated the stuff, but we were only taking snow from one place and putting it in a different place. (This is why we fear any more storms this season; we have run out of places to put it.) On the surface, this seems idiotic. We have an irritant (snow) and instead of disposing of it, we just move it out of one place and into another. The obvious reason is, of course, that we have priorities, and one of those is getting me to work, and to do that, we have to clear the driveway. So we move the snow from the driveway to the side of the driveway and the adjacent yard.
I wonder how many times I have done that with other things. In a journey to simplicity, one of the first tasks is figuring out what to do with a lot of “stuff.” From my experience, these were (and still are) hard decisions - (If I get rid of it, what if I need it again one day? What if I’ll regret it?”) and the tendency is to avoid making hard decisions, so I ended up just transferring “stuff” from one place to another - maybe distributing in more boxes, taking some things to storage, getting it out of sight. I wasn’t getting rid of much; I was just moving it around. My accumulation was still weighing me down; it just wasn’t in my face so I could avoid thinking about it.
I also think humans tend to do that psychologically. If we encounter a problem that we just don’t want to have to deal with, we “transfer” it to another part of our brain and put it on hold. We’re not getting rid of the problem; we’re just moving it around like snow to convince ourselves we have done something. Of course, we have only done some rearranging and the problem has certainly not gone away (and may have gotten even bigger in the meantime).
Avoidance of the tough decisions in life is human nature. So is doing things to try to trick yourself. Next time I hear the phrase “snow job” meaning to fool someone, I’ll smile. Sometimes we have no bigger fools than ourselves.