Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In 2010 I wrote a few posts about walking uphill with a backpack full of rocks, and eventually setting the pack down and trying to walk away from it. It was a metaphor, but one which came back to me in force when I was talking with a photographer friend about the cover illustration for my blog book. My blog is about a lot of different things, from identity to personal growth to freedom, all of which are lofty ideas and therefore difficult to capture in a single image.

I like the backpack full of rocks because it's an ongoing struggle to remove it and leave it by the side of the road. Our stress is mainly caused by our own decisions and attitudes, and if we remember to shed our burdens we can walk a lot easier than if we schlep them around with us. The problem is the remembering. Most people hold on tight to what causes them discomfort, myself included, because it's what we know, and we are afraid of what we don't know.

For me, putting other people's problems and feelings into my backpack is an area I struggle with. I forget that I'm not supposed to do that. Each person must be responsible for their own stuff. I only need to be concerned about what is under my direct control, and wasting time and energy stressing over problems I can't affect the outcome of is utterly useless and exhausting. I wasted a lot of time living like that, and it's hard to change course, even though I know in my mind that it's better for me to dump out this backpack and remove what doesn't belong in there.

I wish it was easier to change the parts of ourself that require ongoing maintenance. The old stuff tends to come back, again and again, to weigh us down and increase our anxiety when we should be looking for ways to lower it. I want to live with peace and joy as my companions, not fear and frustration. I know that I have the right to choose what my attitude will be, I just hate that I forget to be proactive about it, and end up falling back into my old ways so easily.

Life is an uphill climb. But when we stop, take off the backpack full of rocks, and look around, often the view is inspiring enough to encourage us to keep walking. We are alive, and we have today to improve ourselves, and to minimize stress and panic, and find new ways to manage the hardest parts of our existence. I want to move forward, not stay in one place or slide backwards. There is more to learn, to experience and to discover. I have another chance, and I want to walk my path without the weight of a hundred rocks which don't belong in my backpack.


  1. I actually did this walk once at a training course when I was still in school. We had to load up a backpack with our issues. For every issue we had to take a rock, label it, and then put it in the pack. Then we went for a hike (years later I would use this exercise when working with teen sex offenders to help them understand the gravity of their crimes, but that is a whole other story).

    When we got back from the hike we examined our rocks and did some processing. My bag was filled with childhood stuff and other's issues. I've gotten better since then (remembering how freakin' heavy that pack was because of other's issues) but it's still something I need to remind myself of all the time.

    But, my point is (and good God, I do have one I promise) is that I don't think that it's that bad. I think carrying around other's rocks makes you tired but it also means you are a caring and compassionate person. A good person to be friends with!

    Does that make sense? Am I rambling?

  2. It does make sense, but there are "good" rocks and "bad" rocks. Most of the rocks I carry that I shouldn't are my perceived expectations from other people. I'm terrible at reading in to situations and feeling guilty for things I think others are feeling, without taking their communication at face value. That is what I am trying to stop doing.

    I agree that there should be some element of carrying each other's burdens, and caring for each other, and I'm slowly figuring out where the line is between healthy and unhealthy in this area. I tend to take on way too much of other people's feelings and pain, and I have to learn to feel what is mine and allow others to own what belongs to them.

    Thanks for your insightful (and hilarious) comment. It totally makes sense to me, and it's a good counterpoint to my post.