How to Carry Your Burden

Today I complemented my partner on how he supported me in dealing with my inner demons from my struggles in the past, how he didn’t freak out. His slightly embarrassed response was: „Maybe it’s because I sometimes don’t care enough.“

I realised that was exactly why he was so good. He was simply there. He didn’t try to carry my burden for me. Even though he is always quick to take over my heavy backpacks, shopping bags, book bags etc. and I am happy to let him carry those, he doesn’t carry my inner burden. But he is standing right next to me, helping me to balance my steps with the, sometimes heavy, psychological load on my shoulders.

And I think this is how it should be. It is my burden. He will never understand its intricacies, its pitfalls, its moods, its escapades. He could try to carry it for me, but then I would not build up the muscle strength necessary to carry it myself. I would not develop techniques to walk with my load without stumbling. If I let him or others carry my burden, I would be thrown out of balance the moment it flung itself at me. And trust me that would happen. My burden is like a needy child that clings to my leg or a cat that climbs on my head with a paw dangling over my nose at the most inconvenient times. It will not agree to being handed over to someone else.

I could also try just dropping my burden and throwing it into the ditch. While I’m writing this, my burden is laughing out loud at that thought. Because if I tried that, I’d probably manage to drop it on my foot and break a toe or would dislocate my shoulder. Trying to get rid of my burden will not get rid of the pain. It might become a different kind of pain whose source I won’t remember, but it will definitely continue to hurt.

The only solution is to carry the burden. It is difficult, and in the past I have not been able to keep it up. Many of times I had to take it off and have preferred to live with the consequences, i.e. phantom pains. Some years ago, the phantom pains — together with everyday bothers — were becoming overwhelming. I tried psychotherapy and was encouraged to take a closer look at my burden. So I picked it up from the wayside and started opening pockets and digging into its far corners. It was very uncomfortable and necessary. And I managed to carry on, not constantly trying to ignore my burden. But after some time, I realised that it would be difficult to continue my life journey with my head buried in the depths of my burden. I might be missing out on life’s beauties. So recently, I have started to just throw it over my shoulder and start walking with it. Sometimes I feel rubbed raw and hurt badly as a result and I need to shift the weight around occasionally, but other than that, I have tried not to let it impede my progress or define how I should feel.

I think we all have our burden, each of them very different and very personal. What is heavy to some may be light for others. We can never know. And we all try to hide it. Instead of carrying it out in the open, we try to hide it under our clothes, try to change our posture not to have it stick out. Imagine how ridiculous we all look, trying to hide a 50-litre burden under our clothes! Imagine how difficult it is if you try walking with it tucked under your arm because you believe that it may be less visible.

How much easier would it be to carry it out in the open, on our backs, even on our heads! Have you ever seen Luo women carrying up to 70% of their body weight on their head? It may be a dire task, but they look so elegant! How would it be, if we could see other people carrying their burdens? If we could observe their technique, stop them on the street and ask how they tied up their burden so neatly?

How would it be, if we dressed up our burden to make it — and thus us — more beautiful, interesting, unique? We could become unicorns, giraffes, elephants, or simply invent completely new shapes!

I imagine a world, where I walk past someone who has dressed up his burden with pink donkey ears. Asked about the meaning, he may answer: “I realised my burden was lighter when I didn’t take it so seriously.”

I imagine a world where the burden could develop rocket boosters and lift you up in the stratosphere or where the burden would suddenly be filled with helium and lift you above the trees. Over the last few days, that happened to me. What I had experienced as a crushing feeling in the past, had suddenly transformed into wings! Did it last long? No. Did the crushing feeling come back at some point? For sure, but not as crushing and not as pervasive. And the flying in between felt magical. And I will get it back. And I will perfect my technique of carrying my burden. I think I will give it some legs, so it can walk on its own. Heck, I’ll give it the shape of a camel and make it carry my groceries for me!

“Are we getting a bit carried away?” asks my burden, “That will never happen!”

“Fine”, I reply, “but I can still imagine you as a wobbly legged camel baby while I continue to carry you (and my partner carries the groceries), and I will smile at the absurdity and you will not manage to weigh me down!”