Invisible Weights

I imagine a fair number of you have been skiing. If you have, then you can surely relate to the feeling of taking off a pair of ski boots after you’ve had them on for a whole day. They’re clunky and very restrictive, and when you take them off, it’s amazing how much lighter your feet and legs feel. Like they’ve suddenly been freed from something you didn’t realize was as bad as it was.

Now imagine that you’ve had ski boots on for months. Years even. Imagine what it would feel like to take them off, even for a little bit.

I think there are weights we all carry, some voluntary and some involuntary. We carry them all around for long enough that we sometimes forget they’re even there. We wonder why we’re so tired all the time, or why just getting through the day can be exhausting. And it’s only when we take a moment now and then to look at all the things we’re carrying around that we notice just how much we’re shouldering.

Case in point. As a member of the Maine Library Association presidency for the past six years, it was never a “burden” that I felt was overwhelming. It was work I enjoyed doing, and it needed doing. But when I stepped out of that role a few months ago, there was definitely a feeling of taking off a load I’d been carrying around for so long I’d forgotten how heavy it had become. You take that responsibility and tuck it away in a corner of your mind, reserving some mental space for it.

Second example: with Tomas and DC gone to Fiddle Camp this past week, it’s been amazing to me to see how much extra time it feels like I have. Please note: this is not me complaining about having kids at all. I love them all dearly and am very happy to be their father. But it is another responsibility that I take care of each day. I’ll come home from work and check with them to see how they’re doing. I’ll keep track of the things they need to do, or the things they’d like me to do. You wouldn’t think it takes that much mental space to keep track of it all for kids who are old enough to be self-directing (for the most part), but this week, I realized I’d been selling the job short. It still takes time and emotional energy.

The same logically holds true for all the relationships we have in life. Spouse. Parent. Child. Friend. Co-worker. Anything we need to put effort into to maintain. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. (In my experience, anything worth real value takes effort.) But in some situations, it can certainly be a problem. Because these burdens are always there, it can be hard to tell if you’re in a relationship that’s taking too much of your time and attention. As hard as it is to imagine forgetting to take off your ski boots when you’re done skiing, I suppose it’s theoretically possible.

So what to do with this new observation? In most cases, I imagine the answer is “not much.” Like I said, this is a “burden” I want. One that’s rewarding and worth the effort. But perhaps it would be useful now and then to try and identify all the burdens we’re carrying, particularly the ones we might not realize are even there. Because if we could identify just a couple of those that aren’t necessary anymore, that can free up some much needed mental space for all the other things we’re doing.

It’s something to think about . . .

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