Face-Palms and Riding Mowers

Yard work is rolling to a close soon, for some of you that is. Those of us in the steamy and stubborn south have several weeks left to find creative ways to try to beat the heat and keep our flower beds weeded, lawns mowed, and the hedges trimmed. With the sun taking center stage a little less each day, it’s finally getting easier to tolerate the hateful rays beating down on our shoulders as we scurry about our yards like the most devoted of worker bees.

Distracted riding

Mowing my yard gives me a lot of time to think. In fact, I get some of my best ideas for my classroom while I am making the rounds watching my handiwork take shape. Unfortunately, I also have a lot of time to second guess myself and run through a laundry list of regrets. Just last week, while circling my house on the riding mower, I found my mind wandering to the days prior to my melanoma diagnosis.

A laundry list of regrets

There exists an entire decade and more of my history in which I donned tank tops, cut off shorts, and suntan lotion every summer and went about the same jobs in the yard with a much different purpose running a close second to the goal of making my yard look nice.

Finding an excuse

Truth be told, there were some days when I looked for things to do in the yard just to gain that extra half hour or so of sun exposure here and there. I knew no limits in those days. It was nothing for me to hit the backyard at high noon with the sun directly above me and the coconut fragrance emanating from my rapidly reddening skin.

A hidden agenda

I wanted a lovely yard, but I wanted tan lines and that sweet, sweet heat radiating from my scorched skin even more. With my head hanging low, I will admit I was one of those people who checks to make sure the tan lines are making their inevitable appearance. I know--ridiculous.

While I continued to level the grass in my yard, I thought about the absurdity of it all. Here I was, after 6:00pm, slathered in sunscreen, sticking to the shadiest spots until the sun dropped a little lower in the evening sky, and all the while dwelling on the past--a past riddled with misguided choices and an overwhelming desire to be as tan as was humanly possible for my fair and freckled skin.

Strategy of the game

Fast forward to age 44 where I am trying to outthink the sun and dodge ultraviolet rays like I am playing some type of interplanetary game of tag. Apparently it took one melanoma, three basal cell carcinomas, and excruciating rounds of Efudex to learn the rules of the game. I’m only a few decades late, but I’ve got them down now.

Changing perspective

My yard work time isn’t totally laden with negative thoughts. I have a growing list of things of which I am proud to say I have learned and, occasionally, those items roll through my mind as I round the corners of my house enjoying the progress I make with the mower. Topping my list is the face-palming, forehead-thumping, eye-rolling realization that worshipping the sun was one of the worst choices I ever made, and I made it over and over and over again. Yes, that’s definitely a positive.

Doing exactly the same activity years ago, I caused irreversible damage to my skin, but I have learned from it. Where I used to seek opportunities to alter the color of my skin, I now find ways to protect it while showing my own two children how to do the same.

A soothing hiatus

Fall is coming. (Well, it’ll eventually hit the south.) When it does grace us with its presence, my outdoor routines will experience a little hiatus. I won’t find myself thinking so much about the sun and all the ways I used to hunt it down like my very life depended on it. Instead, I will think about how nice it is to know better and how great it feels to do better.

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