Stop Carrying Everyone’s Shit
I recently had a vivid dream. I was traveling to my childhood home, a small Cleveland suburb named Avon Lake, Ohio. Along the way I met a number of important people from my past. Each person asked me to carry something on my journey.
My ex-wife wanted me to transport books, so I could prove I’m smart. An old friend said to cart photos from my debaucherous youth, so I wouldn’t forget to be carefree. Friends from pro wrestling told me to pack videos of my matches, so I could show everyone that I’m a tough guy.
My girlfriend, Kate, was the only person who didn’t tell me to bring anything. She simply requested that I take her along for the ride.
As Kate and I traveled from Texas to Ohio our rental car became overloaded, and we needed to upgrade to larger and larger vehicles until we found ourselves in a giant white SUV. Even this larger vehicle was jam-packed.
After what felt like forever we approached Avon Lake, which was being buried by a blizzard. Our obscenely large automobile was filled to the brim with everything from vegan donuts to camera equipment. I was having a hell of a time navigating the overloaded vehicle on the treacherous roads.
Then I looked around and noticed everyone else was doing the same thing. They were all toting crap that people in their lives coerced them into carrying. We were like a little army conscripted into driving gas-guzzlers full of shit we didn’t want. Everyone struggling to safely negotiate the countless obstacles on their paths.
Why weren’t we willing to drop our excess baggage?
I turned to Kate and explained that we needed to leave this stuff behind and walk home. It was only a few miles away. We’d get there faster (and safer) on foot.
“What about all of this stuff we’ve been carrying?”
I looked to into her warm eyes.
“This isn’t our stuff. People just told us to haul it. Do you really want any of this junk?”
“Honestly? No.” Kate replied.
We gracefully departed our SUV (which was still sliding on the snow and ice) and we watched as it drifted into a nearby McMansion. Upon collision the garage door busted open to expose a stockpile of unused clutter the house’s occupants were hoarding.
Kate and I laughed.
I don’t normally examine my dreams for hidden meanings, but the metaphor in this dream was pretty clear. I believe we all carry undue burdens throughout our lives. Sometimes the burdens take shape as physical possession, but often they come to us as “personality traits” others expect us to exhibit. For example, I have old friends from high school who expect me to be the same person I was back then. They pressure me into telling the same jokes that made us laugh when we were 16-years-old. It’s a little awkward.
It’s easy to let other people shape our life’s narrative. In order to steer our own ship we need to practice constant mindfulness. Don’t accept the burden of other people’s expectations. Live life on your terms.
-Get rid of something (or someone) that no longer serves you. Maybe it’s the guitar you never learned to play, or perhaps you need to stop seeing certain people who have become unhealthy influences on your life.
-Get comfortable saying “no”. Don’t let other people force their wishes onto you.
-Sit alone in silence for at least 10 minutes per day. Practicing mindfulness will make it easier to see when you’re starting to get weighed down by other people’s expectations.