by P. Nick Sholley
Outside on the street in front of our house, jackhammers blat out their imperatives. A new water main is going in. I am focused on not using the noise as an excuse not to persist in writing this. I can work through it. I know I have something to say… Didn’t I have something to say, something I wanted to share?
I have been circling around this subject for a while now. And I stepped away from it hoping for more clarity, hoping for more quiet, which is now delivered. Lunch hour is upon us.
What is it about renewal? The word is appearing in blogposts and fliers everywhere. Spring is here and we are struggling like buds to poke through the surface, of wood and soil, whatever contains us and holds us back.
Contemplating this, I wonder what holds me back in my couplehood. How do I renew and push through to grow something new in my relationship? How do I reinvigorate my commitment to my partner, my family, my friends?
Like a tendril, like a shoot, I reach toward the light. Or like a root, I reach deeper into the ground, into the soil that surrounds me and nourishes me, that holds me secure. I seek out water, light, nutrition, companionship, known-ness and newness.
Okay, sounds good. But what does it mean in everyday terms? I think about last week and the way my wife and I spent time together. One day we went to the carwash to give our ride some much needed attention after a roadtrip to the snow. We got pulled through the automated wash and marveled at how our toddler had remained completely asleep the last time through despite the near-deafening noise. We joked that it must have been a familiar experience in utero: the thump of the flap sponges as the heart beat, the whooshing digestive noises of the water jets.
After that, we pulled up to the bank of vacuum nozzles and began attending to the interior of the car. I was suddenly aware of how good it felt to be doing this together, giving attention to our ride, sucking up the dirt (or getting to the other side of it), each tackling one half of the car. Very quickly the task went from being mundane to being a kind of gift. What we were doing needed to be done, and it felt better doing it together. And since we don’t always get to do such things together, portioning off chores as a time saver or out of necessity, we might have very easily missed this opportunity. We acknowledged that it felt good.
And yes, getting through the dirt is a huge part of renewal. Spring cleaning, anyone? But just past the cliché are specific experiences from our own lives.
Those moments when we are separate but working alongside one another can meet the same need for renewal and reinvigoration. They serve as a reminder that we are together in this (or in the words of a best friend couple of ours, “we’re on the same team.”)
One of the next things on our list that day involved weeding and tidying the yard. Again, a mundane activity that might not rhyme with any romantic musings of a weekend well spent, but it was something that suited both of our needs for connection: pulling out the visual clutter and making room for something new to grow, or making room for the space to frame the rest. And between us something else could take root, a reminder of being a good team, of making room for future growth.
In renewing, we may reach toward connection with ourselves, and we may think of others as we reach from ourselves. We may ground ourselves despite the pull of distractions, a whipping wind, the interior commotion of our own mental carwash, or the returning blat of the jackhammer.
Renewal can happen with a fresh look at things, at how we communicate, at how we receive, at how we reach out, at how we ground. And in this case, renewal can happen with a little help from the mundane tasks we might otherwise write off as a chore.