Awhile ago, a friend said after I'd inadvertently messed up in a situation, “When we know better, we do better.” I was thinking about that today as I cleaned up dog-poop in my back yard. Spring is in the air and with it, the inevitable evidence of winter’s passing has laid bare unsightly signs of dog’s presence emerging from beneath the melting snow.
With rake and shovel and a heavy duty garbage bag lining a plastic garbage can, I scooped up the debris that had been hidden beneath the snow’s pristine blanket. As I scooped I thought about how I know better than to leave the backyard for more than a day or two without getting out there to pick up after Ellie. She’s a big dog. A big dog has big movements. Usually twice a day. Added to which, her best buddy, Mollie, a small white Bichon Friese, has now taken up residence in our home after her owner went away to College. Mollie contributes twice a day too.
The math is simple. Twice a day times two is four deposits a day, times seven is twenty-eight a week, times four weeks, is one hundred and twelve a month.
Taking care of business
So there I was on this beautiful day scooping at least a month’s worth of poop because over the past few weeks I’ve had a lot of excuses to not do it on a regular basis. No matter how much I knew I needed to keep on top of the yard, I had a whole pile of reasons why I couldn't.
It kept snowing. The snow hid the mess. It was too cold. The deposits were frozen solid into the ice and snow. It was dark in the morning when I left for my office and dark at night when I came home. I was too busy, too tired, too lazy to get it done when it needed to be done.
I knew better, but I didn’t do better.
The question is, why not?
And that was my realization as I scooped another pile of dead grass and dog poop into the garbage can.
Scott Peck writes in, People of the Lie, about the importance of acknowledging the shadow. He equates it with taking out the garbage. You can’t just ignore it. It won’t go away by itself. If you don’t take it out, you are at risk of disease, unwanted pests and other calamities -- all because you refused to acknowledge the garbage needed dealing with.
The shadow’s like that. It often contains those aspects of ourselves we don’t want to look at, or love, or acknowledge we possess. When we avoid the shadow, or refuse to acknowledge its presence, we are at risk of the shadow taking over our lives.
When the shadow lurks, the poop piles up
In ignoring what needed to be done, picking up the natural byproducts of owning a dog, I had created a bigger mess than I would have had to deal with had I simply done it in the moment. In refusing to face the shadow side of owning a dog, I willingly put my dog at risk of disease and infection, not because I don’t love my dog, but simply because it was easier to give into my excuses than to be responsible.
Sort of like life.
When I don’t take care of the details of everyday life, I risk my peace of mind and create messes that will need to be dealt with at some future date. For example, if I ignore paying bills on time, exercising regularly and eating well, I create stress in my life not to mention aches and pains and excess weight that I will need to deal with in the future.
Avoidance strenghtens fear
Cleaning up my back yard today I felt good. I was doing better. When I deny or ignore my knowledge, I am avoiding the shadow side of my life. In that avoidance my fear of having to deal with reality inhibits me from truly enjoying the moment because lurking in the back of mind, shadowing my every thought, is the knowledge that eventually, I will have to clean up after myself. And it will probably hurt more than if I’d chosen to do it at the appropriate time.
When I know better, I do better -- as long as I bring my knowing into the light of day and take appropriate, timely, caring action.
Under the sun, my shadow shortens
I cleaned up my back yard today and felt the warmth of spring tickle my imagination. It was a messy job, but I was taking care of business. I was caring for an animal who depends on me and who loves me unconditionally. I was preparing my yard for spring's awakening. I was cleaning up the mess.
As I scooped I felt my shadow shortening under the light of the mid day sun. I know I need to clean up regularly. I know the garbage needs emptying. I know a lot of things but I don't always do them. When I stand in my light, when I acknowledge the pull of the shadows, yet allow my courage to pull into the light of knowing what is the right thing to do -- I do better.