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Lighten a heavy load.

I can’t do it. Not today.

I can’t watch it.

I can’t think about it.

I can’t control it.

I head outside.

I tear at the earth.

I remove the ugly.

I control the outcome.

I plant the beautiful.

I move.

I change things.

I transplant, I prune, I fertilize, I water.

I control.

My fingernails are stained brown from the dirt.

My back aches.

I destroy and I create.

Bit by bit.

I crave more.

I head to my favorite locally-owned plant shop. Here, I wander, unnoticed and unknown, where my red-rimmed eyes are concealed with a baseball hat and sunglasses.

I am picking my favorites when I notice the owner. We wave our hellos as he helps another customer.

Something is different today. His shoulders are hunched, like he’s been carrying something heavy.

We are mere acquaintances, though I have been coming here more and more often through the pandemic. I push away my own thoughts for a moment and watch him. The other customer pays and moves on. I approach him.

He briefly looks up. He won’t (can’t?) make eye contact with me.

I ask, “You okay?”

I don’t know why I said it. I could have moved on with my day and not uttered a word more than the normal pleasantries we exchange.

He shakes his head and I think he’s going to walk away, but he pauses. He glances at me with shame in his face.

“You know, I should be grateful.” His voice is taut with tension. “I have been so busy through this whole pandemic. My work never slowed. We never closed, not one extra day. And I know so many are struggling and can’t go back to work. I should be thankful that I have a job.”

I’m nodding my head in agreement and encouragement.

“But”, he said, “I’m so tired. I want to take a few days off but I can’t.”

We are quiet for a moment. I realize the heavy load he’s been carrying. I understand it.

I don’t know why, but I said,

“You know, that’s ok. It’s okay to feel grateful and exhausted and even frustrated.”

He looks at me. His tired eyes lock onto mine. We are quiet together.

“Thank you for saying that.” He takes a breath.

I nod.

“You’re welcome.” I smile, “Sometimes, it feels like we need permission to feel everything we are feeling. It’s all so overwhelming.”

He nods, and says,

“I don’t know why I told you that.” He laughs softly, “I keep thinking people will think I’m crazy for not wanting to work. We are making more than we’ve ever made during this time of year. But, I just need a break.”

“I understand.”

He nods again.

I pay and take my beauties to my backyard.

I don’t plant them. They can wait until tomorrow.

Instead, I sit. My tears stream down my face.

I’m tired.

I’m frustrated.

I’m angry.

I’m overwhelmed.

I give myself permission. I allow the feelings I've been burying to surface. I need to feel them, all of them. Instead of pushing aside the negative emotions, I allow them to bubble up and take over.

I breathe long, slow deep breaths.

I will be okay. This will pass and we will all be okay.

The tears slowly stop flowing and, somehow, I feel better.

I feel calm.

I feel a bit more stable, a bit restored.

Yes, I am grateful for so many things. But, on some days, that gratefulness can feel hollow. I need to allow myself to feel the pain, the sadness, and whatever else is heavy on my heart and mind.

Maybe we need to feel the bad emotions, in order to truly relish the good.

So for whoever is reading this today, for whoever needs to hear it: I’m giving you permission.

Permission to set aside the gratefulness for a bit and let your other emotions surface: be sad, be frustrated, be angry, be overwhelmed.

Let them all surface. Feel them, and take deep breaths as you do.

Yes, we all have so much to be thankful for, but life is overwhelming. It’s okay to feel…everything. Don’t bury the heavy emotions. You can’t be positive all of the time. It’s too hard. It’s not healthy. Instead take the time to slow down and feel what is laying heavy on your heart and in your mind.

And, maybe, once you feel all of your emotions, they will lighten.


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