Today I was in a bad mood. I’d had a rough week with my head (migraines), work was a pain, we were having challenges with my daughter’s school, and all of it was feeling like a lot of weight resting squarely on my shoulders alone. It was clearly not helping my attitude. Then at lunch I happened to be shopping at Whole Foods and, while in the checkout line, I noticed the strains of accordion music wafting through the air. I questioned the checker about it, and she said it was an elderly man who happened in a couple of times a week on his own to play; they believed he was a little lonely and liked the company. I found myself compelled to stop and say hello to this stranger before I left the store. He was cheerful as could be; sitting alone in his chair, playing for whomever chose to listen. He shook my hand and patted my arm, thanking me for coming by. I told him my father used to have an accordion when I was little and that his melodies reminded me of that; my reminiscing seemed to cheer him even further. He shared that his favorites were the religious hymns because he could remember them better, and proceeded to play the intros of a couple for me “testing” to see if I could guess them. He seemed pleased that he could stump me as he chuckled to himself. I asked if I could take his picture and had to laugh at his response of “Sure, but I might break your camera!” I told him I needed to leave, but encouraged him to keep on playing and thanked him for his time. He shook my hand again and I left him with not only a big grin on both of our faces, but a much improved countenance on my part. It’s amazing how a random encounter with a total stranger made my “today” so much brighter.
We all carry weight. Every day, in different ways. Some of us manage it better than others, but we all carry it. The bill you know needs to be paid next Thursday. The project deadline you have coming up in a month. The argument you had with your loved one last evening that is still unresolved. The lab results you’re waiting on from the doctor’s office that you’re hoping, desperately, don’t carry with them bad news. The guilt over yelling at your child exactly like your father used to yell at you, even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t this time. Weight. It’s always there.
Not only is it consistent, but it is constantly changing its size; forcing us to make choices about what additional things we’re going to take on…what else we decide to carry. Some of the burdens we bear are necessary, almost mandatory (bills, family, health, etc.); we must shoulder and manage them the best we know how. But others are a choice. We have the option of adding to our loads, or avoiding the heavier burdens that may be trying to creep up our shoulders, just by making a different decision. You would think that deciding to lighten the load would be easy. But often times I think it’s actually more difficult simply because we don’t realize that it truly is just that – a choice.
Maybe we avoid choosing because it sometimes requires us to sacrifice things we want or need, or even sacrifice other people in order to lessen our own burden. We so often sacrifice our own well-being for everyone else’s; it’s human nature, after all. But what we fail to see is that by doing so, time and time again, taking on all of this weight so that others don’t have to, we create a load so burdensome that eventually we can’t continue to carry it. But how will we be available to all those we’re trying to aid if we’ve effectively lost ourselves, crushed under our own solitary burden?
If only we would allow ourselves to let some of it go – unload the weight that is not ours to bear. Many of these burdens are just that…not ours, but we bear them just the same. We think of it as selfish to be self-protecting. But so much suffers as a result; our health, our families, our jobs. Everything is subject to the fallout when we break from carrying too much. Unfortunately, we often only realize this too late, long after the pieces are already scattered.
I was reminded today that we all carry weight. And I was also reminded that it is okay to give yourself permission to lay some of it down. By doing so you are not a failure, you are not giving up, you are not sacrificing others, and you are not admitting defeat. You are simply acknowledging the limits of your being. For this brief moment, allow yourself the gift of being UN-burdened. The weight can wait.