Do You Have Holes in Your Bucket? Me Too.
There was an old woman who, every day, would walk down to the river with two buckets attached to a long pole over her shoulders. One of the buckets was new, and the other one was old and cracked. Each time the woman returned home from her long walk, the new bucket had all its water, but the old bucket was only half full.
One day the old bucket asked the woman why she still used him. “You work so hard to carry water home, and each time I am only half full. I feel bad that I can no longer do my job very well. Why don’t you just throw me out and get a new bucket?”
The old woman turned and pointed down the road and said, “Do you see all those flowers growing on your side of the road? Every day you water those flowers, and my walk to and from the river is always filled with beauty.”
I started this summer feeling kind of useless, like an old bucket.
I lost a big freelance client, and ever since, I’ve been anxiously trying to fill the holes it left—in my budget, my schedule, my purpose.
I’ve added some patches, but mostly the holes remain. Then this folk tale found me, and something shifted. I stopped trying to mend what was broken about the past and started paying attention to what was being watered in the present that would nurture the future.
My son is 15 and a catcher. HS travel baseball means a lot of driving. A lot. But as I drove him here and there and back to here again, I realized I was loving this time with him. Just like when he was little, I packed snacks, filled our water bottles, and loaded up on audiobooks. The only difference? We’re listening to Stephen King instead of Frog and Toad.
I really needed this summer to water our relationship. And the hole in my bucket made sure that happened.
Am I always this zen about the holes? Ha! Absolutely not. I judge, blame, and guilt myself for not being able to do everything perfectly—perfect gig, perfect paycheck, perfect schedule, perfect perfect.
But after reading this folktale, I pause when I get in that space and remember what I’m watering. And when I do that, I create just enough space for love and poetry to enter.
Poetry heals. Love wins.
Need to be reminded of what miracle the holes in your bucket might be watering? I’ll pack the snacks, fill the water bottles, and be right over.
Thank you to Neal Foard for the inspiration and Dobrinoiu Denis for the extraordinary photograph.