My sister Nancy tells the story about a time when her boys were under two years old and, as mothers of young children often do to keep from going insane, she visited a friend.
Besides her two sons, Nancy brought along with her a backpack she carried in lieu of a diaper bag. It featured many convenient compartments and was not covered in ducklings or whales as were most diaper bags in the late nineties.
So, Nancy had this backpack and it was heavy. Like, monumentally heavy. And she was at the home of a friend we’ll call Kristin because that is her name. And Kristin’s children were older, so she didn’t need a diaper bag or even a backpack anymore. Gone were her days of baby wipes and fishy crackers and teething rings and nursing pads and sippy cups and pull-ups and nasal aspirators.
For better or worse.
When the time came for my sister to leave Kristin’s house, she put her enormous baby on her hip (no really, he was enormous) and asked her toddler to hold her hand and then she heaved the monstrous backpack onto her shoulder.
She slumped a little under the weight.
And her friend named Kristin looked at her with kind eyes. “Your bag won’t always be this heavy.”
Now, I happen to know Kristin. She is not only kind, she’s also super smart; and I suspect that while her statement was a literal fact, she meant it in a much bigger way.
Your bag won’t always be this heavy.
Kristin was right.
Today, Nancy’s kids are 17 and 19. For more than a decade, they have carried their own bags (sports, groceries, school).
But metaphors are tricky sons of bitches, and it’s human nature to drop one burden only to pick up several more.
Children bring baggage. But so do jobs. Or spouses. Dear friends even, and extended family. Financial worries. Health issues. Loss. Grief. Pain.
Eventually, everyone feels the weight of a monumentally heavy bag.
What we don’t feel is surrounded by Kristins, with calm eyes and wonderful bag-related metaphors.
Or perhaps we do have a Kristin or two, but we think we can’t reach out for one reason or another. Or these Kristins reach out on their own and we tell them
No, thanks. It’s okay. I am fine
even as we slump under the weight.
Why is accepting help so difficult for us? Guilt, maybe. Or pride. The fear that if we admit to one crack in our shell the whole damn egg will be destroyed. Nobody wants to be Humpty Dumpty.
So we tell everyone we’re all right even when we’re not.
But here’s the problem:
When our bags are too heavy, we do stupid things to alleviate the slump. Perhaps we sleep too little or drink too much. We might yell at our kids or curse the dog or stop trying, hoping, dreaming.
We end up hurting ourselves. And worse, we hurt the ones we love.
It’s so silly, really, when help is all around us. Sometimes we slump too far, though, and forget.
When our burdens become too great to bear, we should welcome any support that’s offered to us. Let someone else who cares disperse the weight.
(Like me, for example. I’m pretty strong when I’m not too busy being weak.)
Wherever you are right now, please consider the bag you carry alone. Maybe there’s more than one. You might be staggering under the pressure.
Then say after me:
My bag will not always be this heavy.
(You can do this in the mirror but if you’re anything like me, you haven’t showered yet or brushed your teeth and poor self-image is a compartmentalized backpack all by itself.)
Now. Say it again. Louder.
My bag will not always be this heavy.
This time try to believe it. Then reach out to your Kristin.
I promise she’ll need help with her own backpack someday, too.
Writing is a lonely business and I love to make friends along the way. (Plus, people online don’t know I’m in my pajamas and haven’t brushed my teeth.)