For years I've imagined life's responsibilities as as suitcases and luggage that represent our decisions, responsibilities, even our circumstances. The adversities, the choices, the things we don't get to make a choice about. We carry it all. Though some of it - occasionally - we can set down.
There are some bags I personally *must* carry. They cannot be set down. Motherhood, my marriage, my work, my own endeavor to heal. There are some that I enjoy carrying even if they require doubling up bags on one arm — self care, learning, civic engagement, working toward social justice in my community. These bags have my name tag on them. They may change in size and style with time, but I choose these bags.They come with me wherever I go.
There are some bags that are not mine to carry, and they have to be handed back to the person trying to set them on me. Burdens that are not mine, guilt trips that I don’t make room for, expectations others may have of me that are theirs, not mine. There’s not room for those bags in my load. They’re not mine to carry.
There are bags that I will unflinchingly hold for others, or that others have held for me. When they are in crisis and need help wheeling a big one for a while. Immense grief, loss of a loved one, or maybe being more present with a friend because an urgent need to carry extra bags arose in her life. These are the bags we carry when participating in a relationship with our friends, family, neighbors. These are the “showing up” bags. I work hard at managing my own bags so that I can be available for these bags. This category of bags is where we do for others, and where others do for us.
We don’t have to choose our 'Bags of Life' wisely, and sometimes we don't even have a choice in the matter. We just have to be mindful of what we can carry. Our bags change, they help us recognize where to set boundaries, and they are ever-changing.
So here's what this has taught me, and what my hope for you is: I've learned that I cannot carry all the bags. No one can. When I try, I sink. When I try, I fail myself. But when I remain vigilant about my capacity to carry my own bags, my 2020 bags, my changing bags, other people's bags - then I begin to feel like I'm living in to my values. I'm making choices with my time, rather than catching everyone else's falling bags.
Carry what you must. Carry what you want. Just don't carry at your own expence.