I had an AHA moment in the middle of Wahoo’s last week. My daughter and I ordered food to take home and when the order was ready, she picked up the bag and headed for the door. I immediately offered to take it.
“You want me to carry that?”
“No, I can carry it.”
“I can take it. Is it heavy?”
“No, it’s fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Because I can take it.”
“Do you WANT to carry the bag?”
“Well . . . no but . . .”
And it hit me. Why was I trying to carry the d*mn bag when there was a perfectly good child I’d birthed heroically in the middle of the night without a single drug who could do it for me?
“You know what? YOU take the bag. YOU do it!”
Wow. Why was I always offering to carry the bag? I mean, ALWAYS offering to carry “the bag”, even when it wasn’t MY bag, literally and metaphorically speaking!
It may sound like a silly little conversation to you but to me it was big. I’d been paying attention to this kind of habitual behavior for a while, and it really hit me that moment. I always feel the need to do the “carrying”. I feel like it’s my job to relieve others of their “burdens”. “No, let me!” should be my mantra . . .
And I thought to myself, all in this little span of time in the middle of Wahoo’s with the heavenly smell of tacos and salsa in the air, WHY DO I KEEP DOING THAT?! WHY?!
You want to know why? Because I signed up to be the Bellman, that’s why!
AHA MOMENT! With nary a burrito nor taco in my hand to carry, I got it! I got the last little piece of this puzzle of mine.
This type of “Let ME” behavior goes way back, but I won’t bore you with the sordid details. Clearly, I took on the role of bellman long ago. I’ve been a loyal carrier to family and friends for years. A “toy hauler to the stars”, if you will. You got baggage, I’ve got hands and shoulders. No problem. I’m a trained professional. Just pat me on the back and go about your business.
I was a perceptive, sensitive little kid; a dreamer, but a problem solver. I looked around at my often flailing family and thought “Whoa, whoa, whoa! What’s happening here?! You guys don’t know what you’re doing! You’re dropping stuff everywhere. You’re disorganized and obviously don’t know how to balance bags and worry at the same time. STEP AWAY! I’VE GOT THIS PEOPLE!”
In hindsight, I wish I’d let them carry their own over-stuffed bags, but, you know, hindsight.
So many of us take on the “weights” and “baggage” of others without even realizing what we’re doing. We wonder why we’re always left carrying the bag, but we’re the ones offering. We’re the ones taking the bags out of everyone’s hands. It’s our role. If feels familiar. We take it on because we think we’re helping out or we think they can’t handle it. We don’t even notice the heaviness . . . Until we decide to put it all down and get a taste of how light life can feel.
It’s one thing to help others and be of service. It’s another to take on the burdens of the world.
In times of crisis, I’m sure we all want to be there to assist our brothers and sisters, but in the day to day ups and downs, we need boundaries. We have to learn to trust that others are perfectly capable of carrying their own bags because that’s how people (our children, spouses, friends, even parents) get strong and independent. That’s how they grow and evolve. They have their own journeys to take.
And if they fail, or drop the ball, or make a mess, we can be a support to them, not take responsibility and ownership. The key is knowing when you’re offering help and compassion and when you’re enabling.
So you say, all of this grand insight because you were attempting to carry a bag of delicious tacos for your adult child? Ahhh, sometimes it’s those little moments that give you a peak at the bigger things.
When you start to pay attention to the behaviors that keep getting you frustrated, angry, sad, stressed or resentful, you begin noticing patterns. You notice the things you typically do. You notice the things you typically say. You notice the things you typically put in your body. You notice the way you typically feel. You become a non-judgmental witness to yourself, and you learn. You become aware of your thinking and behaviors, and that’s when change happens.
You can’t alter your behavior unless you’re aware of your behavior, and it’s only yours you can change. Changing yourself will ripple out into your world and give you new results on all levels.
SO, what’s the moral of this epic story? . . .
You’re not responsible for carrying everyone’s “bags” and “burdens” through life AND if you ever find yourself in Wahoo’s getting tacos with your daughter and she offers to carry the bag home, FOR GOD’S SAKE, LET HER!