A short way up the road from my parents’ cottage, a couple recently moved into a house they had built from scratch. Returning from a morning walk, I saw that a man was outside the house working on building a beautiful dry stone wall along the front boundary of the garden.
Depending on what sort of frame of mind I’m in, I experience varying degrees of awkward anticipation about how to greet people I come across on my walks. At what point should one begin looking over in their direction? I hate to seem that I’m staring inappropriately for an excessively long period of time, yet nor do I want to appear cold and unfriendly.
My usual tactic is to lower my eyes to the floor until I come into close proximity and then raise my eyes, make brief eye contact, say ‘hiya’ and then lower my eyes again and move swiftly on. It’s not that I dislike meeting people, per se. In fact, the smiles and hellos I receive on my walks are often quite a warm and uplifting comfort. But I do wonder whether other people experience quite so much internal trouble over how to go about these greetings.
As I was saying, I saw that a man was there building this lovely wall and so as I came parallel to him I called over, “It looks so nice.” He looked a little embarrassed and replied, “Really? I was paranoid it wasn’t any good.” “Oh no!” I said. “It’s amazing!”
One would think that given my love of words I might have found something rather better to say to him than his wall was ‘nice’ and ‘amazing’. In my defence, I truly am a writer, not a talker, and where I might be eloquent with the written word, I am often not with the spoken. Not at all.
But to get back to the man and his wall, I was quite taken aback by what he said. Though I am a terrible judge of age, I would perhaps place him in his late thirties or early forties. He had long hair, a weathered, outdoorsy look and was wearing a baseball cap. Now you will see my preconceived judgements in perfect action. These visual elements taken together had immediately given me the idea that he must be a confident and self-assured man who could never doubt his wall-building gifts. Clearly, I was wrong.
How strange that we can doubt the gifts that are so clearly ours. How strange that our gifts can be so obvious to others and so difficult to recognise for ourselves. How strange that even whilst carrying out the very thing we feel most at home doing, we can be filled with doubt that we have any right to be doing it at all.
And yet. And yet does it matter? He still built his wall. Even if every stone he lifted and placed was filled with doubt, he built the wall and the work was done. Isn’t this what all artists are doing every day? Quietly working, quietly doubting, wondering if it is any good at all?
Love and courage,
Happy Resurrection Sunday Leah!! Yes, we somtimes don’t realize how beautiful our work is until someone else notices and reminds us of the special gifts we have, or somtimes we just need to step back, reflect, and see the beauty before us. A simple smile could change someone’s life, and add another stone to our account😃. God Bless my friend…
Happy Resurrection Sunday Eugene! Oh, I so agree about the power of a simple smile. I have been on the receiving ends of smiles that have truly touched me. And hopefully I’ve been the giver of such smiles too! God bless you too and thank you for reading and leaving a comment.
Catriona Blair Noble
Happy Sunday lovely Leah!
This is such a relevant reminder for me at the moment, as is so often the way with your words! I love being reminded and am increasingly excited when I discover that others are going through such similar experiences at the same time as I am.
Lately I am often listening to my self-doubting or fearful thoughts whilst doing "the thing" and just noticing them whilst I do "the thing" regardless – and realising how irrelevant and unhelpful those thoughts are – my higher self is guiding me regardless and getting on with things whilst my ego chatters away!
Thank you for sharing yourself so honestly and sending out so much compassion through your work!
Happy Sunday Catriona!
This is so good to read! Like you, I find one of the most helpful things to just be regularly reminded that others experience something similar and therefore the self-doubting thoughts don’t need to be a reason not to continue on in whatever direction I’m called to go. In fact, the more regularly I am reminded that others go through the same thing, the less it feels important in any way.
Thank you for reading, for sharing and for being here. I so appreciate you!
I totally get this Leah, the potential complexities of a simple greeting to a stranger.
And should you choose (dare?) to venture into a little conversation or banter, that’s a whole new level of risk.
You don’t know how they’ll respond,or in some cases whether they’ll respond at all.
If it goes badly or awkwardly,then of course you don’t let it show, you just casually continue onwards like nothing happened.
No one knows you’ll still be thinking about it four hours later.
It’s almost comical really;
Should you encounter someone whilst on a quiet country walk, it feels entirely natural to exchange a friendly greeting. Probably a sense of shared experience.
If you wander through a town centre saying hello to every person you pass, everybody would consider you genuinely insane.
Lots of rules, just none of them written down.
It is almost comical, isn’t it?! Actually, sharing these things here makes me see more clearly how all this awkwardness and doubt can be taken so lightheartedly when I realise that it’s part of life for many people and it doesn’t really matter so much. And yes, in the village where my parents live everyone says hello to one another but it’s not at all the reality in most cities. Although the small city I just left was definitely more friendly than most. Indeed, so many unwritten rules of being a human 🙂
It’s nice to hear I’m not the only one who thinks these things while walking along coming across other people. I always feel a bit slighted if someone coming the other way doesn’t look at me or smile or say hello after all my internal conflict haha. And so many people have self-doubt but we don’t think about that because ours is so big to us that’s all we see, that we’re the rubbish ones and everyone else is super confident and good at everything. Thank you Leah xxx
Ha ha, yes! So much anticipation and then…nothing! 🙂 And yes, I really relate to that process of thinking that everyone is confident and talented etc. etc. and I’m somehow the only one on the planet who doubts themselves! Thank you sharing Sarah xx
Oh yes! As I see pieces of coloured fabric together I have the little self doubt and the big perfectionist voices filling my head.
“Just do it”
Such a great slogan
I just gonna hang it on the washing line and ponder what I am creating.
Love you writing, so often your descriptions are so vivid O almost feel I am with you on your walk.
You always make me smile, Francesca! I can just see your coloured bits of fabric blowing in the breeze on the washing line. Sending lots of love xx