Chop wood. Carry water.” —Unknown
Every time you start to feel a little anxious, just put your head down and get to work.” —Janelle Belgrave
One of the things I find fascinating about work that I love is that my love and enjoyment doesn’t cancel out the tedium in the task.
Editing can include painstaking attention to quote marks and commas as much as it allows me to dive into examples and argument logic.
Development can include logging contacts with donors and updating their database records, not just connecting people who have resources with projects worth resourcing.
Research can include tracking quotes to their source and cleaning up references as much as marshaling facts and stories to make a sound point.
Congregational communications can include updating contact lists and making the same documents every few days just as much it includes holding space for people during the joys and challenges of their lives.
There are routines to every role. And even a bucket of water will get heavy if carried for long enough.
But there’s some wisdom in the old saying, “Chop wood. Carry water.” An extended version of this saying ties it to enlightenment or awareness: “Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water.”
I’ve learned that even the tedium can be a meditation, that as I do the same thing again and again, I get to notice new things each time. I can focus my attention, and check in with the work rather than check out of it.
That task that is tedious can bring me a kind of calm in my workspace. The repetition is its own order, and reminds me that even grand work depends on small actions, and small actions are worth doing well.