This past weekend we had some nice weather so I spent some quality time with my Toro Rake & Vac Blower. As if vacuuming dog hair every day isn’t enough, I spent my Saturday vacuuming leaves. The chore didn’t go smoothly and at times I wondered if the neighbors were having a good chuckle over me looking ridiculous – again. I wanted to give up, but I kept the image of my dad methodically working his way through big jobs in my head and stuck with it.
When the leaves first came down they were too wet to blow or suck up, but I managed to get the bulk of them into a pile before I gave up. Then it snowed – more than once. Now I had a nice pile of wet, icy leaves to deal with. The leaves were still leathery and kept clogging up my Toro. I had to repeatedly stick my arm up the thing to pull clumps of leaves apart. Just as often I had to pull the nozzle off and clear out jammed sticks and leaf stems.
I’m probably the clumsiest person alive. The bag that the shredded leaves go into is the size of a body pillow and the leaf blower itself comes up to my waist. None of it is light and every time I needed to dump the bag, crumbled leaves would billow up around me. Add to that an electrical cord to trip over, which I did several times, along with the repeated clearing of clogs and I’m sure me doing the leaves looked like a skit from a comedy show. Slapstick at it’s finest.
There have been many times in life that I’ve allowed the fear of looking ridiculous to stop me. As a child in swimming lessons, I let it stop me from learning how to swim. As a teen and young adult, the fear of looking foolish stopped me from learning how to dance. As a single mom with a house and yard to look after, I don’t have the luxury of giving up. I can’t walk away from things that are new just because I’m worried about looking ridiculous while I figure out how to do them and I don’t want to walk away from these challenges either.
Nobody is born naturally capable. Everyone starts somewhere – even the guys. The first time I changed the oil on my car by myself I read the Haynes manual and Googled the process. I jacked up the car once, realized it would work better if I jacked it up from the other side so I let it down and jacked it up again. Once I was under there I had the wrong size socket. I crawled back out and took the entire set back under with me. I couldn’t get the wrench to work so I could take off the old filter. I crawled back out again and found a piece of rubberized shelf liner to give the wrench more grip. I think it took me two hours to change the oil that first time.
I can only imagine what the neighbors were thinking if they watched me. Maybe the even had a good chuckle over my incompetence. Did my face burn thinking about them laughing over how silly I looked? You bet it did. But three months later when it was time to change the oil again I knew exactly what to do, even if I did still need to take the entire set of sockets under with me. That time and for all the times after, it only took me a half hour to change the oil and anyone watching me wouldn’t have a single thing to laugh about. It’s not as if they could see that at least two-thirds of the time I would drop the drain plug in the pan for collecting the old oil and have to fish it out.
Every time I take on something new that I’ve never done before I ask myself what’s the worst thing that could happen. For instance the tub faucet I still can’t get the old cartridge out of. What’s the worst thing that could have happened when I tried to change it? Maybe I could have broken the faucet, making it completely unusable. Maybe it would have spewed water and I would have had to keep the water to the house shut off. So then I would have gone and bought a new faucet and called either my ex or my dad to come and put it in. Maybe that option isn’t open to you, but there’s always an option.
Plan for your worst case scenario and then get started. Look silly, worry that the neighbors are laughing, make mistakes and through it all I promise you’ll learn and you’ll gain something really important. Confidence and the special pride that comes from being capable.
How about you – have you ever let the fear of looking silly stop you from doing something?