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Chop Wood, Carry Water

New Year Resolutions - the excitement of starting fresh, the hope of what’s to come. I never make them.  But this year, I think I finally figured out the start of something, and maybe the end, all in one. (ok God, you can start laughing now.)


Many years ago, in the corporate world, I set up a meeting with the head of human resources to try to change my life.  I was finally ready to reveal who I really am and stop worrying about the consequences.  Impostor syndrome be damned, I was going to show up as the creative soul I felt destined to be.


Over time, as I rose in position, I felt obligated to shed my irreverent spirit of presenting insights through metaphor in consumer data, and instead to grow the business monetarily to higher heights. I had to hang up my amazing technicolor dreamcoat for a grey suit. It was both an honor and a little death I could not then refuse, sacrificing joy for the privilege of golden handcuffs.


Having patiently listened to me out myself, she pointed to a painting on her wall and asked “what do you see?” 


I saw a watercolor portrait of an axe in a stump of wood, and a bucket of water next to it.  “Nature, an axe, a bucket of water.”  What the hell could any of this have to do with my soul-baring request to be demoted?


“Chop wood and carry water – that’s the work” she said, with her usual deadpan New York confidence. 


I was confused, muted, stilled.  This is not what I came in for – I wanted to be seen, even dismissed for wanting to step away from this stressful environment of “success” back into the intense land of story creation.  Nope.  I left the glass walled office to trudge back down the grey carpet lawn of cubicle forest to my own cubby, and contemplated in frustration.


This wise woman gifted me Buddhist wisdom that only now, 10 years later, I am ready to glean. Happy New Year and Carpe Diem.


“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” — Zen Kōan






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What you think is fine. What you do is immortal.

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