You know what role you play in life by how you carry your “stuff.” In a purse. In a wallet. In an art folio. In a drawing tube. In a briefcase. In a book bag. In a diaper bag. In a gym bag. In a rolling suitcase small enough to fit overhead on an airplane.
I’ve switched from a small clutch purse and laptop case to a backpack. A heavy backpack. Lots of pockets and compartments for everything from textbooks and computer to student ID and train pass. Plus extra pens, Kleenex, snacks and change of clothes. Yes, I prepare for all possibilities, including being stranded overnight.
I’ve always been known as the bag lady in my family. Now isn’t any different. I usually have necessities for all sorts of emergencies that never arise. But heck, if they come up, I’m ready. Carry around almost everything except a first aid kit!
This also means that I tend to take on burdens and lug them around. Regardless of whether they’re mine to worry about and try to fix or not. It’s just how I’m wired. So I do a lot of work about letting go of issues that I cannot control or change, and trying to be responsible for those things that I can do something about … usually my own stuff. Sounds like a twelve-step recommendation, doesn’t it?
What I bring to campus, even with all the extras, is an editorial process every day. Some books go into the pack, others come out. Depends on the class. Sometimes I add layers like a sweater that I might need later, as the weather changes. Or extra meals, if I’ll be on campus very late.
I try to lighten the load, both physically and metaphorically. Acknowledge which texts I’ll have a chance to read, and give myself permission not to carry an extra stack, just in case I have unexpected blocks of time (usually I have less time than anticipated, rather than more). By minimizing what I need, I take a few pounds off my back, and incidentally off my mind.
To make sure I’m only bringing what I need, I often check my calendar and syllabi, reviewing deadlines for both reading assignments and papers due. Then I pick one project I can work on, using my computer or some time in the library, to keep up with course work. That’s what I’ll complete during my “down times’ for the day.
Staying focused, and one step ahead of my assignments, seems to keep my spirits revived. And that’s another way to lighten the ‘stuff’ that I’m lugging around.
Anyway, today’s journal is simply an acknowledgement that we’re all carrying a lot of burdens. Some of them pack away tidily into our chosen forms of storage and porting. Some spill out. Some just don’t fit at all, and we carry them loose, in our arms, slung over a shoulder, or in some other unexpected ways. Some burdens we try to leave behind. Or put into storage, until we have a chance to cope with them.
Every time you empty your pockets, your purse, your backpack … every time you move your gear from one container to another … it’s a chance to conduct an editorial exercise. Relinquish those things you don’t need. Collect and bring along those items that you find essential (right now). In the same way, it’s an exercise that can also lift the weight of a spiritual load, at least for a little while.
My backpack is heavy. So is my schedule.
But my step? My step is light-hearted. I’m where I want to be, a lot of the time. I’m fortunate to be able to say so.