Burdens come in all shapes, sizes and weights. We all experience burdens every day. We may refer to them as loads, weights on our shoulders, cargo, baggage, drains, afflictions or liabilities; generally anything that is oppressive or difficult to bear, which can be different for any given person, on any given day.
It seems only natural then to strive to lighten the load. This is true for anything we don’t really need, like the extra work we pile on our own plate out of guilt or perceived (or real) obligation. However, perspective always plays a role in how we move forward. Joseph Emet, a leader in the areas of mindfulness and better sleep, reminds us that “our burdens feel lighter if we carry them out of love instead of as an obligation."
Sometimes we are not able to lighten our loads, they are ours to bear for a reason. So we must look at them differently. The lenses of love and gratitude help frame our view of these burdens.
For example, instead of looking at caring for a sick family member as a heavy responsibility, we can look at it with a loving heart and be thankful we are able to provide support and care for someone who cannot do it for themselves, or even an opportunity to give back. We can look at a busy morning routine as a headache, or smile and use love to help our family help themselves get out the door on time. Instead of seeing the never ending errands we run as an unappreciated time suck, we can see them as a way to thank and help ourselves, and those we love and care about, continue to grow in a meaningful way.
The fact that we can give of ourselves to make others’ lives better, make someone smile, ease someone’s suffering, or lift someone’s spirits is a gift. It also translates into time well-spent making the world a better place. We also must remember to take care of ourselves.
I tried using this new lens of love and gratitude myself before I blogged about it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a spring in my step rather than feeling the familiar ho-hum drudgery of running errands and feeling fatigued taking care of others. I felt energized!
As I paid for, lifted and carried the enormous and heavy bag of dog food to my car, I thought of my dog’s adorable face, felt fortunate to feed him healthy food, and thankful to him for the love he brings to our family.
I caught myself thinking I was “too busy” for socializing and made time to return a friend’s phone call. Every time I talk with her I laugh, forget about the time, and my heart fills with appreciation for the bizarre circumstances that crossed our paths to bring us together. I am grateful she is in my life. She tells me that since her husband died, talking with me lifts her spirits and gives her energy.
While struggling to fit in everything on the family calendar and keep up with the daily changes, I remembered to be thankful for my family. I balanced the tasks by prioritizing and letting go of those that were not necessary, and delegating a few to my kids with a please, a thank-you, and a hug (and gratitude that I can still get away with that with teenagers). I gave myself permission to not accomplish everything that day, and the whole family was more relaxed and happier for it. I then rewarded myself with reading quietly before bed, one of my favorite ways to end the day.
Somedays the seemingly unnecessary tasks at work build up and cause stress. This week I was able to look at them through refreshed eyes and focus on the enjoyment I have in my work of helping students and families find success, or at least the beginnings of new paths toward success. Even the small steps that go unnoticed by many were acknowledged by me since I know that I have the knowledge and skills to make their lives better.
I was pleased to wake up feeling more rested than usual, with a little more patience, light-heartedness and love in my heart for the next day. I’m sure it won’t always go this well, but it worked! I bet it will work for you, too. Give it a try!
Embrace the burden. Carry it with love. Spread the joy.