I recently ordered 15 tons of rocks to spread over the yard. We have grass now, but it doesn’t do well in the high desert of our part of Colorado. It drives me nuts knowing that I’m wasting a valuable resource (freshwater) on a plant that shouldn’t be in my yard. So, my plan is to do what I did at my last home:
Moving the rocks has taken me many days. My modus operandi is to wait for a nice afternoon, break out the wheelbarrow, and get moving.
During one of these sessions, a neighbor stopped by to ask what I was doing. After I explained the project, he muttered:
Wow, too much work for me!
The neighbor wanted no part of moving rocks. If he had the same job to do, I’d guess he’d pay someone. But I was having a good time working on the project. My thought was that he was missing out because I always looked forward to my afternoon session with the rock pile.
It’s Not The Event…
I next thought about why I was having fun moving rocks.
I feel great. I’m 25 years removed from high-school. 46 isn’t old, but some of my high school acquaintances are already dead. A couple of them drank themselves to death. Another died from a heart attack. Jason died in an auto accident and had to be identified through dental records. I feel great. No aches and pains. I can do 10 pullups. I’m more active than ever. I’m so thankful that my body can move these rocks without complaint.
Being outside is awesome. When my neighbor asked me about the rocks, it was a beautiful afternoon in the high 50s. If I had still been working at my computer job, I would have been behind a screen at a desk. The only outside I would have seen would have been longing glances through the window every now and then. I’m so thankful that I get to be outside on beautiful days.
I have the money to buy the rocks. 15 tons of rocks along with the delivery charge set me back $662.04. I never thought I’d spend that kind of money on rocks. But because Mindy and I worked hard to accumulate a healthy nest egg, I can spend the money. I’m so thankful we don’t have to worry about finances anymore. I’m also thankful that my money supports a local business that provides jobs for others in my community.
I’m getting a great workout. Moving rocks is hard work. But hard work is good for you. My body will be a little healthier because of the rocks. I’m so thankful I can be outside doing this exercise instead of using a boring machine at the gym.
My yard is better. Next spring, I’ll plant water-friendly plants so my yard doesn’t look like the moon. My water bill will be a lot less and my yard will look a lot better. I’m thankful that I’m saving money and improving my little patch of land.
The kids get to work too. The children hate moving rocks as I hated many of the chores I had to do when I was their age. They complain as I did. But that work instilled a work ethic in me. I’m thankful that the rocks are helping to instill a work ethic in my girls.
It’s Not The Event, But Your Perception
If you’ve studied Stoicism, you know that the school of thought teaches us about how we should process what happens to us. Lesson #1 for today is this:
It’s not the event that makes us happy, but how we interpret and process it.
I could have viewed at my rock adventures in a different way:
I’d rather be riding my bike!
This is a lot of work!
I could have bought a lot of other stuff with $662!
But, where would those thoughts get me? They would take me to a bitter place of unhappiness and hate.
Negativity comes naturally for me, so choosing to view the world through a non-default filter takes work. This practice isn’t easy which brings me to the second lesson:
Your brain is not you.
Your brain will throw all kinds of thoughts at you. Some are good:
Let’s get some exercise!
Others, not so much:
What you do with the thoughts is up to you. And you don’t have to entertain them.
While moving rocks, your brain may tell you to put the shovel away and go have a beer. You can tell your brain that the exercise will make you stronger while the beer will weaken you:
Brain, I am going to finish up these rocks.
While driving, your brain may tell you that the right response to the guy who cut you off in traffic is the middle finger. You can tell your brain that maybe the guy was having an emergency, so you’ll give him the benefit of the doubt:
Brain, I will not flip the guy the bird.
None of this is easy. The struggle is constant. But, the payoff is a better, more thoughtful, happier you. Is anything less worthwhile?
One More: I’m Alive
I took a break Friday afternoon for another rock moving session. The weather was wonderful and I really wanted to be outside. I got through 20 more loads and the job is close to being done. I’m so thankful that I get to spend another day on this beautiful planet, even if some of it was spent moving rocks.
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