The Burden We Feel

Sometimes I feel like the guy in this illustration. I don’t want to feel like the guy in this illustration. In fact, there is a lot of self-loathing going on when I think about why I feel like the guy in this illustration. Take a look at this man. He is hunched over, clearly weighed down by something. He is carrying a burden, of what kind I’m not sure. But I think we can all put ourselves in his shoes.

*Let me preface this by saying that, yes, some burdens are worse than others. And by talking about a problem that may seem shallow and “#firstworld” to some people, I don’t claim to turn a blind eye to bigger issues. Yes, I agree that there is an undeniable difference between, let’s say, a health epidemic and feeling lost because you don’t have a “purpose.” But the point is this: everyone has the right to feel bad about whatever their issue, no matter how seemingly small. Because it is all relative. We adapt to our environments, and will always have problems to deal with, no matter how trivial they can seem in the wider, grand-scheme-of-things perspective. While I believe that all of our issues are valid, I think it’s a matter of how you react to them and holding onto the consciousness that there are other things outside of them.*

With that said, let’s get to the root of the burden I’m talking about today. The one that I imagine this man is carrying with us. He is our kindred spirit, feeling what we feel. I’d like to think that he is mirroring our pain back from his home inside this Hebrew book I found on the streets of Tel Aviv (yes, I did indeed pick it up off the street and take it home with me because it was beautiful and foreign and a memory, okay..). But back to the matter at hand, what I want to talk about today is the burden of doing. I have touched on this before. I have talked about the feeling here, here and here. And yet, this insipid, housefly of a feeling persists.

After traveling to other countries and observing different cultures, it seems that this feeling isn’t inherently apart of every society. In some places I’ve visited, it is common to see people just sitting outside, talking and chatting, what seems like all day, appearing to be leisurely passing the time. And there are other cities I’ve been to with cultures that are similar to the US in the sense that people want to be busy, they want to be productive. They have agendas and feel a responsibility to fill their days. I realize this may be a superficial and un-nuanced view of cultural differences, but I think it is these generalized observations that can often speak to a larger truth and that I want to lay out for the sake of discussion and, hopefully, understanding.

I want to know what exactly it is that sets these lifestyles apart because I know that it is not a clear either/or; one culture is busy and one is lazy. Maybe it is mainly a difference in mindset that comes from external expectations. When you’re a kid, you don’t feel insignificant if all you did all day was play. When do we start to measure our worth through how much we’ve accomplished? My first reaction is to say during school. But maybe it’s earlier. And if something has been ingrained in us for so long, how long does it take for us to shed all the layers? It’s different for everyone, but does anyone have a ball-park measurement?

TheBurdenWeFeel Busy Vs Relax-3

I want to know how to find the in-between between accomplishing and just living. I want to conquer the insidious thought that if I haven’t produced something today, if I haven’t had several social engagements, worked all day, and been physically active, then I somehow failed. I even want to erase certain words from my vocabulary. Starting with, “productive,” “failing,” “busy,” “right,” “wrong.” I only seem to use them as weapons, aimed at myself.

Tell me you feel this too. Not that I want you to have this oh-so-particular pain and insecurity, but because I want to relate to you. I want to know how other people go through this. For once, I don’t want to even feel the burden of coming up with a solution through writing. I want to know that telling you this is enough, and hope that we can work it out together. I think erasing the loneliness is the cure. I think you simply reading these words helps. Because no matter how intellectual and intelligent you can puzzle something out in a blog post, out in the world, it can blow away as easily as a loose piece of paper.

If you’re reading this, and understand this burden then, tell me: what do you think? What do you do when you feel the heavy expectation of doing? When you feel that incessant urge to validate yourself through what you produce, for what you can show to the world, for what you can post on your Facebook feed. I’d really love to hear.

Much love today and thank you for being here!

Elizabeth

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