undeaddad

explorations of mindful fatherhood

Shoveling My Own Goddamn Driveway, Again

5 Comments

snow-shovelA couple of years ago I wrote a post about 30″ of snow hitting the Northeast and the back-breaking shoveling that took place at my house. The post was about contrasts: the amount of sweat and toil I invested in my hard work versus the money my neighbors spent on plow services.

Living in a wealthy section of town when you’re not wealthy can do that to you. When I’m in the yard, I frequently feel the gaze of my neighbors  and hear their imagined voices. “Look at his ugly grass.” “Wish they’d invest more in that siding.” “When are they ever going to cut down that dying tree?” But those are my own insecurities talking. They are the voices we all get in our heads when we imagine others are staring at us, judging.

And so what do I do? I judge back. “Look at them with their fancy plows. Never do a day’s worth of hard work in their lives.” That’s what my original post was about: judging the character of others based on a common household chore.

Anyone who lives in the Northeast knows that this past week and a half has been monstrous. In our town, we got about 20″ of snow in blizzard conditions early last week, followed by an additional 8″ this week from a Nor’easter. So my wife and I found ourselves outside on at least 3 occasions, shoveling the walks and driveway.

And I listened.

I listened really hard, but I didn’t hear them. I didn’t hear the voices of disdain and condemnation from my neighbors. Instead, I heard the soft crunch of the shovel meeting the snow, the soft whistle of the wind, the creek of the swaying pines. (Punctuated by my old-man grunts as I hurled snow from the path. Yet another sign of my age.) But there was no inner voice imagining what the neighbors were saying. My eye didn’t drift down the street to see if I was the only one hard at work. I didn’t glance over at my neighbor’s already-plowed driveway with envy and frustration.

I was hard at work. My wife was hard at work. It was us, the snow, and teamwork, and I reveled in it. I could feel my body hard at work. I could feel the beads of sweat. I could feel the world around me. I felt accomplished. I looked over at my wife, and saw her toiling just as much as I was, and I knew that I had a true partner: someone ready and willing to do the hard work needed so that our family could survive another day. And I saw my son, 8 years old, picking up a tiny, forgot shovel and pitching in, moving whatever snow he could from the path. I knew we were setting a good example.

This snow storm wasn’t about contrasts. It wasn’t about what they’re doing versus what we’re doing. It was simply about what we were doing. And what we were doing was marvelous.

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Author: CJ Nigh

I am an East Coast writer with a Midwestern soul. Undead Dad is a blog about mindful fatherhood in the deadening age of hyper-technology and over-work. I also write science fiction for young adults.

5 thoughts on “Shoveling My Own Goddamn Driveway, Again

  1. Living in Minnesota, it seems snow blowers are de rigueur, but the very scene you described is why we don’t have one. Since I work from home, I do all the shoveling and I enjoy it, because of the dampened quiet and surreal landscape, and because it gets me moving and out of the house on unlikely days.

  2. You don’t post frequently but when you do, you hit it out of the park.

  3. Can’t wait until my kids are old enough to outsource the snow shoveling. But I’ll likely need to wait a few years. Fortunately, all of my neighbors seem to be in the same boat as me.

  4. thats the best part about shovelling snow; the exercise and feeling of accomplishment when you are done, at least until the snow plough goes by again and leaves another pile at the end of your driveway LOL

  5. I thought this might come back up!

    This winter in the New England for me has been flake after flake (after flake), a reminder that I am in control of nothing that I see. It makes no difference whether I welcome them or not, they fall…

    Be well, CJ~

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