How Long Have *You* Been Holding Water?

A young lady was at the front of the room, giving a talk on stress management. She confidently held up a glass of water. “Let me ask you something,” she began. The audience was sure they knew what came next – clearly the questions would be, “Half empty? Or half full?”


Surprisingly, it was neither. She continued with a smile, “How heavy is this glass of water?”


Intrigued, over the next sixty seconds people called out answers ranging from 8 oz. to 20 oz. Finally she announced, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, no problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have quite a sore arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case the weight is the same, but the longer I hold it the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all of the time, they become increasingly heavy until sooner or later we are unable to carry on.”


As with the glass of water, we have to lay down our burdens of stress and “rest” before picking them up again. Once refreshed, we are able to carry on a little longer and a little better.


Some of the mental and emotional parcels we all carry have a degree of constancy, and even necessity – professional and familial obligations, pressure from financial generation and management, the friction points between what we have and what we want or where we are and where we’d like to be. Though we’re best served to avoid becoming overwhelmed by these, they do have a purpose – they keep us on point and moving forward in our lives.


But then there are those items which we keep in our possession despite their lack of purpose. Anger and resentment are good examples. How long have you held onto negativity which originated from an interaction with a person or from a circumstance that was beyond your control? It could be a seemingly large package, like a pattern of unfulfilled needs originating in childhood, or something as small as someone cutting you in line. Time goes by and if we’re able to, we let go. But often, there is a residual effect that we carry much longer than necessary. Sometimes even years pass but the memory of a person or an event still creates ripples across our present emotional selves.


Remember this, forgiveness is not for the forgiven – it is for the one who forgives. Put down the yoke of these empty burdens and let them fall away. If someone takes your cab, don’t bring the frustration back to the office. And if you observe an ongoing unhealthy or negative pattern within a current relationship, perhaps it’s worth addressing and attempting a repair. But we need not be social hoarders, clinging to all of the ties we fasten. Life is organic and as we change and grow so may our social wardrobes. If it doesn’t fit anymore, don’t keep hanging it in your closet. We cannot fill that which is already full. Make some room and go find a few new items.


Choose wisely what you carry with you, in all aspects – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially – and make sure to carve out the time and space to place your burdens down. Replenish your resolve, regain your balance and perspective, and resume the journey with renewed vigor. It may not guarantee a faster arrival at your destination, but it will certainly make for a more pleasant trip!

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