Cardboard Boxes May Contain Feelings

Yesterday I packed up all of the things I had kept in the classroom I had been in since September and took them home. After spending most of the year in someone else’s chair, I didn’t have a ton of stuff to carry out, and it all fit neatly in one box. I say it fit neatly, but actually it was the heaviest box I’ve ever carried a long distance. Now, here comes the dumb part. I got a bruise carrying this box.

I know you are thinking it could have been avoided, and you would be correct. I have 2 rolling carts that were parked in the hallway, and either one would have done the job. I would have had to bring back the cart though, and I wasn’t prepared for that. See, I was crying as I was leaving. After a day of training with some amazing people, I didn’t feel ready to leave just yet. I didn’t feel my work was done, and yet it was for the moment. I had to leave. I wanted to make a quick exit. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry.

On the way out of the building I saw 3 people. They all offered to help me. I refused each one of them. Why would I do such a thing? Well, I have a few reasons. (None of them are really good.)

1.That box was my stuff. It was stuff I had brought into the building at one point. I should bring the stuff back out. I am responsible. If I had a coffin full of stuff to carry out, it would be my own fault.

2. I wanted to feel like I could carry my own stuff. If I brought it in, I should be able to carry it out. It was ONE box. If I couldn’t make it to my car with one box, wouldn’t that make me a loser? It sure felt like it would. Allowing someone to help me would cheapen my small feat of making it through this school year intact.

3. I kept telling myself my car was not that far. Yes, I parked in the back, and it was farther than it would have been. Yes, I had to make it down a long hallway, a short hallway, across a courtyard, through a fence, and across a parking lot, BUT I am strong. I felt like I could do it because each step got me closer than I was.

So, with each step, I swear, this box got heavier. I shifted the box. I hugged the box. I put the box down a few times and readjusted. My brain knew the box was the same box, the same weight, and still just as awkward, but with each stop my hope renewed that this box was going to be in my car in just a few minutes! When I finally got there to the car as I placed the box in the backseat and sighed, I also felt like my arms were going to fall off. Then today, I see this bruise, and it figures.

What a great lesson! Emotionally I want to carry things on my own, and I want to feel that I clean up my own messes. This doesn’t mean a load full of feelings and emotions is not going to be too heavy to reasonably carry for long distances. It doesn’t mean it will be an easy trip. Having good friends to help us along the way is priceless. If you are carrying something heavy on the inside, those bruises are only going to heal with time, just like my arm.

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Holding on While Letting Go

In the children’s book Where the Red Fern Grows a young boy sets out to trap a raccoon.  His grandpa tells him a way to trap a raccoon using a brace to bore holes in a log, and you hammer nails in along the shaft.  Finally to set the trap, you put something shiny at the bottom.  Raccoons can put their hand-like paws down inside the trap, but once they make a fist over the shiny object their paw is stuck.  Raccoons will never let go.  Because they will never let go, they are trapped.  If they let go, they would walk away unscathed, but they die because they refuse to give up the object precious to them.  My best guess is sometimes you are raccoon in this metaphor, and sometimes you are the shiny object.

The problem with deciding whether to hold on or to let go of something is there is no real way to know you are making the “right” choice.  If you let go, you are in a way surrendering.  If you hold on, you might meet the same fate as the raccoon. There are songs all over the radio telling us to hold on.  Whether we be holding on to one more day, holding on cause we are going home, or holding on to what we’ve got, we are inundated with the message to hold on.  Not until the Frozen soundtrack was released over radio waves had anyone told us musically it was okay to “let it go” in a way that spun it as a positive thing.  So, what is the right thing to do?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem is not in the choosing.  The problem is never thinking beyond what is here and now. If you stay in the moment, then you’ll never let go.  Moments change, and as they change, so do we. The best route to take is to ask yourself what the end game is.  Is there an end game?  If there is no end game, what are you holding on to?  Pipe dreams, a load of optimism, and a chance to be very jaded is about all you really have.

But what if you hold on just because you want to hold on?  What if you hold on because that is what you really want? No one can tell you that holding on is the wrong thing if this is the case, because you know your heart.  You’ve weighed options, and you’ve decided.  Nothing will change that decision.  That is when you should hold on.  Unless it turns out you are the raccoon, that is. If what you want to hold on to for dear life is a direct conflict of what someone else has planned, it’s time to release the shiny object, withdraw your hand, and leave the woods.  Chances are though, you won’t leave the woods the same way you came.