Everyone has their own way of pushing their limits. Some run marathons. Some climb mountains. Some adopt intense exercise routines that would make Captain America gasp for breath.
Me? Shoveling out a Colorado spring will do just fine, thank you.
I know I’ve got a lot of company here. If you didn’t have a blower, a service or an ally last week, you got to have your own personal encounter with Nature’s own concrete. The sort of wet, dense, heavy stuff that has to be cleared out in layers, testing your spinal column with every scoop.
And of course, Colorado’s snow fights back. If you tried to get a jump on the situation last Sunday, you may have had the joy of turning around at the end of a fervent shoveling session to discover your path had been covered over again. Multiple times.
In my case, my brain and heart love snow but my back and knees beg to differ. So with a big storm, I shovel the way some people read “War and Peace” – many short quick bursts rather than one long stretch. (I also have the blessings of helpful neighbors doing their own part and then some, which I’m pretty sure you don’t get with Russian novels.)
It’s tedious. It’s exhausting. More often than not, you feel like you’re making no progress at all. But you keep going because you have to.
That seems to apply to a lot of life, lately.
For some, it’s a year of pandemic existence hitting the mind all at once as a vaccine starts to come into view. So much has been endured, and with a light in the distance the last laps suddenly feel so agonizingly slow.
For some, it’s yet one more shooting in one more city with one more burst of racial hate that shakes the soul with its vehemence. A cycle we seem to keep running like a murderous version of Groundhog Day, a little more fatigued and desperate for each repetition.
For some, it’s not the global but the personal. A stubborn health situation. A broken family relationship. A life that seems to keep pounding the same streets and hitting the same blocked alleys.
Maybe there’s progress, somewhere. Maybe you can even see it, if barely. But it just … seems … oh … so … slow.
You’re not wrong. You’re not crazy.
But you’re not hopeless either.
You’re still in the fight.
And even if it feels like carving Mount Rushmore with a toothpick, every scratch is something. Simply not falling off the mountain is something.
A 10-minute burst against the snow never looks like much. Especially when it keeps coming down. But if we keep finding another 10 minutes … however far apart … things can start to change.
And when a friend or a neighbor starts to lend their own shovel (or even their blower), that next 10 minutes starts to look more possible.
Sooner or later, snow melts on its own. Most other problems aren’t quite as obliging. But if we persist – if we lend each other the strength to persist – we can make a difference. To ourselves. To our neighbors. Maybe even to the world.
It won’t be easy. It often hurts. But if we pick up the shovel at all, we’re saying it can be done. That even if we can’t do all of it, we can do our piece.
And that’s an exercise that will make all of us stronger.