Lately, I find myself increasingly conscious of my hands. Specifically, I’m paying attention to the amount of stuff I’m carrying and considering how I can free up my hands so that I can use them for, you know, hand-type things. You’d think that a techie like myself would have digitized everything by now, rendering the need to carry things obsolete. And yet, I find myself most every morning struggling to get out of my car, struggling to open doors, struggling just navigate the office because I’m always lugging something around with me.
It might be my trusty water cup, something I never leave home without. Or my coffee mug that grants me discounted refills at the cafe. It might be a book I’m reading or some obscure piece of technology I ordered for work. It might be groceries or a takeout order I grabbed because I was too lazy to buy groceries. Sometimes, it’s a toy that my nephew asked me to hold for him. More often than it should be, it’s my phone. It could be any number of things, but the point is that my hands always seem to be full, and it has inconvenienced me to the point that I spend time actively thinking about ways to free up my hands. (It’s also inconvenienced me to the point that I’m writing this blog post about it.)
It’s unnatural to constantly carry all of these things with me all the time. I look painfully awkward trying to walk around with my arms full of junk, and I’m prone to drop things when I’ve overloaded myself. I often run into friendly church folk who offer to shake my hand, not as a formality but as a sincere form of extending grace, and the look of confusion and disappointment on their faces when they realize that I’m too bogged down to return the gesture is haunting. It’s difficult to converse, to play, or even to just feel comfortable when my hands are full. It might sound trivial, but this is a serious problem for me.
It’s also made me consider other ways I’m keeping myself from fully living my life by carrying too much. After all, the things we choose to take with us as we go about our days speak to who we are under the surface. (I believe there’s a book about that.) So my tendency to carry too much physically may be indicative of a deeper issue.
Each of us—even those lucky few who have somehow figured out a way to keep their hands free—carry things with us. We carry the tasks and concerns that occupy our minds. We carry scars and emotional baggage from past experiences. We carry preconceived notions about others and the way the world should work. These are natural, and each has its place, but when we take the time to reflect on all of the things that we carry around with us every day, we begin to truly feel the weight of it all.
What experiences are we missing on out when we’re too busy worrying about some potential future disaster to be present in the moment? How many deep, meaningful connections with others do we deprive ourselves of when we’re too cyncical to entrust even the tiniest parts of ourselves to other people? Imagine how much we could learn, how much we could enjoy the world around us, how much lighter we would feel if we just weren’t bogged down by everything we’re carrying.
This is probably the part where I should have some practical advice on how to free ourselves up mentally and emotionally; I don’t. The truth is that I’m terrible at letting things go. Because as burdensome as these things are, they’re still mine. My pain. My preoccupation. My anger. My bias. My doubt. I’ve carried them around for so long that they feel like a part of who I am, and imaging life without them is scary, even though I know life without them would be better.
Sometimes, letting go looks like acceptance. It means seeing things as they are and letting them be. Other times, it means distance. Maybe you don’t need that particular stressor in your life. And in other cases, it may mean something else. For each of us, the process of moving past things that weigh us down is different, but it starts with recognizing the fact that we’re carrying entirely too much and naming the things that we need to get rid of.
And that’s where I find myself now. I’m aware that I carry too much, and I’m starting to pinpoint the burdens that I’m bearing unnecessarily. I hope that with time, I’ll find a way of letting these things go so that they won’t weigh me down anymore. Every day, I’m seeking to feel a little lighter and live a little more fully. And who knows? Maybe along the way I’ll figure out how to free up my hands, too.