Playing in the dirt can clear a mind


I admire people who work outside all day. I’m just not one of them. I’m not conditioned for it since my days are filled with central air and fluorescent lighting.

It’s easier to opt out of the sore muscles that accompany the physical stuff. Like gardening. Sure, it sounds all dainty and sweet, but if you’ve done it, you know the truth.

In the best light, my thumb is a sallow shade of yellow-green and I couldn’t tell you what to plant where or when. But I made an effort a few years ago by turning a small piece of ground behind my house into something resembling a flower garden. I was covered in dirt, dripping with sweat and had the worst backache I’ve ever felt.

As I fell over from exhaustion, at least I had some really pretty flowers of some kind to land in.

Maybe there was something to this physical labor. I was nothing to look at or smell for that matter, but I had something to show for my effort. It felt good.

Putting extra oomph into something that takes energy and strength is a natural stress-buster. When you’re crossing over comfort lines, there’s no time for wallowing in problems, agonizing over work or worrying about the laundry. That’s when you get to say, “I didn’t know I could do that.” That feels good, too.

I imagine this is the mindset for overachievers and serious athletes. I think it can work for the rest of us too. Success comes in different forms for everyone, but the reality is in the old cliché: no pain, no gain.

But it’s more than just the pain, it’s the process. I fight procrastination on a daily basis. I think it’s a medical syndrome and am waiting for the FDA to approve a pill. I even put off the things I love to do. During these procrastination periods, I come down hard on myself for not getting things done. It’s a crazy cycle, I tell you.

At my wits end (with myself!), I used my journal to take notes of the things I put off. What did I put on the back burner? What else was going on at the time? What finally motivated me to get them done?

I saw that the one thing that always got me back on task was physical activity. And I realized that if I do find myself stuck on a paragraph or a sentence or a single word in a column like this—and that’s more often that not—I can keep typing random four-letter words out of frustration or I can step away from the keys.

I can go for a run, plant new flowers, jump on the trampoline —not always the best choice for a well-over-age-30 mother of two…trust me—or in desperate times, scrub a floor. These break me out of my funk every time.

The days that seem impossible to get through are the ones made for chopping wood or weeding a garden or just breaking a sweat.

Maybe you won’t change the world that day, but you can still do that tomorrow. Instead you’ll be really tired, sleep soundly and wake up a little sore but with a tangible accomplishment met. Maybe even push through a mind block.

I’m working on procrastinating less and producing more. As I sort out the details I’ll be in my menial flower bed, pushing up daisies.

There’s probably a better way to word that. I better go scrub something.


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