How to Shovel Snow

I worked for over an hour to clear the drive way. The snow storm had come and gone and left behind six inches of wet, heavy spring snow. The kids had been home from school for the second day in a row and the cabin fever was palpable. I thought, “Sure, I’ll do the drive. It’ll feel good to get out there.”

I started methodically at the middle of the top, figuring I’d split the middle and push half of the snow west and the other half east. Beau grabbed his kids shovel and plotted the design of the sledding hill he planned to construct in the front yard from the discarded snow.

Oh that’s so fun, a sled hill. He is so determined to sled despite doctors orders. I love his tenacity…When it’s about snow…not when it’s about screen time. Leukemia and sledding. Who would have thought? This snow is wet. It doesn’t look that wet. Spring snow is always wet, what did I expect. This is so much bigger when your shoveling it.

I began my first swipe and pushed hard behind the wide steel shovel. The snow was heavier than I prepared for so I moved my body behind the shovel handle and pushed with my whole chest. I leveraged my weight and pushed hard for a foot or two, when the shovel edge met the lip of a contraction joint, misshapen from years of doing it’s job, and forced my momentum to a halt. The end of the shovel jammed into the base of my sternum. Unexpected and frustrating, painful. Heavy with snow, I heaved the the shovel 1/4″ up over the lip of the joint and tried to regain my momentum which was hard to do since the shovel was already full. I finished my first half of a swipe and stood up straight to asses my progress and allow a deep breath to relive the stinging pain in my chest. This was going to be a bear of a project. I had overcommitted.

I knew the contractions joints ran up and down, across, the driveway, off kilter the whole way. I knew the snow was heavy. I had completed a swath from the most narrow portion of the drive and I could barely lift the shovel from the weight of the snow.

How will I manage that wider part at the bottom? Should I take it in 1/3’s? Or get help? Do I need the other shovel? This snow is so heavy. I wasn’t ready for that. I can do this. I’m hot. It’s too cold to take off a layer. Just focus on the next joint.

I began again and as I neared the area where I thought the contraction joint was I attempted to lift the shovel’s front edge just enough to let my momentum help ride the snow laden shovel up over it. It didn’t work. Stopped dead. Momentum stalled. Lift and heave. Swath after swath, each time I just narrowly underestimated where the joint was. Powerful push, stopped in it’s tracks, the jolt causing the collected snow to spill out from the shovel. “Damn it!” I released with furry after the umpteenth time my force came to a grinding halt at a joint I hadn’t successfully predicted.

I was hot and sweaty under my bulky winter coat. My arms ached. I was quite sure I had bruised my sternum, and each swath felt like one step forward, three steps back.

“Mom, can you just push that snow over here?” Beau asked, pointing to the sledding hill he was creating.

He doesn’t see how hard this is.

I was working my tail off to clear the drive, knowing that it’s always easier to clear freshly fallen snow before its frozen of been trampled and compacted snow boots. My hands were clammy inside my gloves and I was out of breath. And there was Beau- finding a solution to the “no sledding” policy the doctors had instituted on account of his blood thinners. I shoveled my next swath to his hill.

Finally I was done. I stepped back and looked at the completed project.

Well, that wasn’t what I expected. There’s a lot more snow left than I’d hoped. I didn’t notice all the imperfection. Damn. I expected this to look different. That was a lot of work for this. Why isn’t it clear? Should I go back over it again. My arms ache. It’s not clear, but is it clear enough? Others will think this is a good job, but I see so much more work to do.

It’s fine. It’s all going to be fine


I hadn’t spoken with her since a drunken falling out we had in college back in May 2009. It was a night that encompassed so much of the misguided decisions I made in that season of life, but mostly because it resulted in the loss of a dear and true friendship.

She messaged me on Instagram with the normal pleasantries of someone you haven’t spoken with in a while, and then some of the abnormal pleasantries because the context of the reconnection was a child with cancer. She was tender and sweet and I read her message knowing that I only knew a trace of her because we had both changed in significant ways over the last 11 years.

“I don’t know how you do it.” She concluded her message.

Do what? I’m not doing it. Don’t you see me not doing it?

This is so hard, I don’t think I’m doing it. It’s heavy and I’m tired. It’s all unexpected and I’m frustrated. Everytime the momentum builds we are stopped in our tracks. By an infection. By a blood clot. By the first grade passing around the stomach bug. My arms ache. It feels like one step forward, three steps back. It’s still not clear, not clear enough, and anyway, I expected it to look different.

Everyone sees the driveway is cleared, but did they see me loose my momentum time and time again?

I expected it to look different.

I never expected this at all.

I don’t know how I am doing it either.

2 thoughts on “How to Shovel Snow”

  1. You are such an I credible writer, and using that analogy, gives me a little insight into what you are doing through and how you feel. I’m sorry it’s so hard, but you are doing it!


  2. Betsy – your writing is heart warming. You guys are all so strong….life throws us curve balls but we stay strong even when we think we can’t anymore. Love, and thinking of you! Lana


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