A close friend of mine is out of work on disability because she can't keep her heart from racing. She takes a variety of medications, all related to blood pressure, heart palpitations, and fainting. Her BP isn't terribly high; in fact, it tends to dip at inconvenient times. But all the while, she doesn't sleep well, and has to balance the need for anti-anxiety medications with the others she takes. Any time we talk, she can recite an extensive list of dramas, big and small, that dominate her life. They include pets (large and small), job, family losses, broken friendships, financial stuff, even the stresses that sometimes come with blogging and participating in social media -- things that are supposed to relax us.
If life can be compared to a large field that we walk through, I'd describe my friend as wearing the best, sturdiest pair of walking boots money can buy, and equipping herself with a roomy backpack containing the necessities to deal with crisis.
In this field, one encounters rocks of varying sizes. From boulders to pebbles, they block our path, trip us up, cause twisted ankles and hurt feet. We have plenty of options for dealing with these rocks -- we can ignore them, walk around them, pick them up and toss them aside, kick 'em, or examine them to see if perhaps they contain quartz or some other useful ore. Sometimes, as we all know, we get some that contain "fool's gold."
But what I think my friend is doing, is picking up any and all rocks that she encounters in her journey through the field, and automatically throwing them into that big backpack she carries. And then, in her strong, tough, stoic way, she just keeps on keeping on.
The backpack has been weighing her down now for awhile. We met when she was 29, and now she's in her mid-40s. She has not learned how to ignore the rocks, kick them aside, stack them in amusing ways and then walk on, or even to examine them for hidden treasures, unless those treasures are glaring up at her in the sunlight. No, she thinks most of the rocks are ugly, dirty and heavy ... but she also seems to think it's her lot in life to just grab onto them, throw them onto her back, and keep going as her load gets increasingly heavy and painful to carry.
She won't let go. Each negative experience confirms her pre-existing view of those to come.
"Whoa, look at this rock! Nasty mother. Hang on a minute while I get it into my pack. Yep, I've seen rocks like that before. Got a bunch just like it in this pack. Just goes to show ya..."
People who collect rocks as a hobby typically look for new varieties they haven't seen before. They look for smaller, representative versions of the ones they know are out there. They describe, categorize, and catalog the rocks, setting each one into its own place on a shelf to show its uniqueness, and list the beneficial and harmful characteristics of the minerals they contain. This makes the rocks manageable. If one takes a little time to study each rock and put it into perspective, the collection brings richness and interest to life. But no one benefits from a clump of material that just adds to an already heavy burden, twisting your body and spirit until you don't even remember what you were like when you first set out on your journey.
We need to periodically take the pack off our back, sit down, empty out all those rocks and put them in order. Which rocks are valuable, or at least eccentric enough to make us think? Those are the ones that are worth hanging onto, as long as they don't weigh us down. They do more for us when they're in a contained space and we can add our own knowledge and intelligence to what we experience with each rock. And we also need to remember: A very small child can look at a minute pebble and think it's a huge rock because it looks so big and impressive in their tiny palm. As we grow, we should be able to distinguish the boulders from the pebbles and deal with each life lesson in terms of our own strength and ability to deal. We should be able to eventually outgrow the smaller burdens and approach the bigger ones with some wisdom and perspective.
I'm going to make a list of the rocks I've collected in my walk through my field, and put them in their proper place -- which is not on my back. I hope my friend will do the same before that pack of hers weighs her into the ground.
What's in your rock collection?