“Hello”, he said. And I looked up gently. An old friend I hadn’t seen in quite awhile was sitting by my side. I hadn’t seen him there.
“How are you?” I said. “What are you up to?”
“Same as usual”, he quipped. “I miss you! I wish we could do more together.”
I used to wish that too. My heart used to feel wild-y and alive when I saw him.
But like Pavlov’s dog, I know after wild-y and alive comes crushing pain. My mind no longer remembers its addiction, to wild-y and alive. Because after years, it has finally learned that, with him, the crush is wilder than the alive.
My mind now looks closer, to see if a person is carrying a used shovel. If not, they haven’t done the work. They haven’t dug. They haven’t felt any of their personal pain. The edges aren’t rough and dirty and worn.
Sometimes the shovel is definitively dirty, but the edges, not worn. That though, my dear, is from burying. Not digging. Not finding the darkness and light from beneath.
Look for a used shovel. Those are the people who know themselves better than anyone else. Those are the souls who are willing to treat themselves like a priority, like a fierce source of their own light and love and strength.
Don’t accept the clean shovel, the shovel they borrowed from someone else, the stories about the reasons the shovel is so shiny and new. Don’t flirt with your own rationalization of why the shovel is dirty, but unhewn, without marks from hitting hard dirt and rocks and other unsightly pieces of earth.
The tattered, scraped, jagged edges of the shovel used, will show you what kind of worker you have found, the chance that one has found their soul, and the beauty therein, amidst the dark and unsightly and worn.
Those are the people you can learn from and reciprocate love. And they only know because of their digging.
You may recognize the humble, wise beauty in their radiant smile. And my guess is, they are looking for someone with a worn shovel too. And if you have a used shovel, they will be looking at you. You and your worn shovel.
So dig and grow, no matter the cost. Not for the smile, but for you. Because you must know you better than anyone. And you will know when you beam from your soul, the digging is worth it all.
Excuse me now, if you will. I have some digging to do.