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Why we Willingly Carry our Burdens Around

I’ve noticed how often myself and those around me convince ourselves that carrying burdens is worth the weight (and the wait).

It’s as if we’ve accepted that feeling weighed down by life is just a “part of the deal.” We’ll feel light and good when we get the promotion, when the kids are out of the house, when we retire—there is always another mile marker before we get to rest and enjoy.

Is it ever worth it? And what are we carrying anyway?

Most often, it’s the people, places, things, and parts of ourselves that we feel like we couldn’t possibly live without. And I say this quite literally. I’m talking about the things that, when even entertaining the thought of letting them go, we’re met with so much fear that we feel like we’re actually facing death.

These “things” are what we build our sense of safety around—most often our primary relationships (partners, spouses, parents, best friends), our homes, source of income, and material belongings. But sometimes they can be aspects of our identity that we believe are necessary to protect ourselves—strength, independence, likability, privacy, intelligence—anything we’ve deemed “good enough” to catch us when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan.

We hold onto these things for dear life because we don’t trust that we’ll be supported if we let go. We don’t trust life, and we don’t trust ourselves. Without this trust, our very livelihood feels threatened—basically all the time.

I, like all humans, have had my own flavor of vices and crutches to maintain a sense of control in this wild world. Some are a little more trivial, like how keeping a perfectly decorated apartment made my historically missing sense of “home” feel a little closer. But others have embedded into the web of my psyche much more complexly, particularly in the realm of relationships.

Over the past several months, I’ve been learning to see relationships through a new lens. I’m speaking up more, spending more time alone, and letting go of people who I realized weren’t unconditionally supportive of my growth, my well-being, or my loving requests for healthy boundaries. On one particular occasion, with my mouse hovering over the “send” key on a goodbye letter I cried my way through writing, I felt like my heart was breaking beyond revival or repair.

This very real reaction is so extreme because it is, in fact, a death. But the really messed up thing is that it isn’t ours—it’s our ego’s. When we face ourselves with courage and challenge ourselves to let go of everything we’re attached to—everything we’ve told ourselves we “need” to be safe and happy—our ego panics because it knows it cannot survive the sword of truth. The truth that we already are enough, are lovable, and have everything we need for a comfortable, happy life.

From the other side of countless experiences like these, I can tell you it’s always worth it to push through this temporary pain. The weight of living under the thumb of fear (of loss, of losing control, of being alone) is a burden we need not bear any longer. Because what lays on the other side is an incomparable freedom. An unspeakably beautiful lightness. To the mind, it makes no sense, but the rising peace in the heart needs not ask questions.

What’s right for us will always make us feel lighter. What’s right for us is always in support of our freedom and peace. Unconditionally. That’s why, even through the tears of grief, we feel an underlying sense of relief when we let go of something or someone out of alignment. And we are all deserving of this feeling.

If you’re reading this and the stir of anxiety is tousling in your tummy, or the quiet voice in the back your mind is nudging you about a certain someone, job, or whatever it may be—you know what it is, and I know that you can do it. You can let go.

Trust in your deepest inner-knowing so you can live a little lighter.

You already have everything you need.

In Soul, Danielle

(This post was originally published on Elephant Journal)