Barrel packing.

If you have family living somewhere outside the US, there are some good odds that you’ve done it at least once. In my case it was two times a year- after Easter and before Christmas. I can still remember getting excited when I would see the big brown shipping cylinder sitting in front of our staircase. An empty barrel was a gift to any six year old; it was packing it that was no fun.

Before my mom would add the packs of rice and crate loads of Ensure for my grandparents, the barrel was nothing but good fun. I’d hop inside of it and like a hamster on a wheel go spinning up and down our hallway. While I was busy with my antics, my father home from work stood speechless. At the time I’m sure that saving up for me to head to an ivy seemed like it might not be such a great idea.

After the fun of rolling was through, my mother would turn the barrel upright, pulling up the kitchen stool along the side. We would form a conveyer belt of immigrant generosity, loading up the barrel with the basics it was so easy to take for granted living in the states. While at first a few cans of tuna and baked beans did not seem like they would ever fill up the big brown space, but my mother would always remind me, “Pack everything up tight so we don’t run out of space.”

Now that I can no longer fit into the hollow part of a shipping barrel, I’m learning my mother’s heeding applies to much more than packing up food and supplies. The truth is we all have to make choices about how we fit things in and whether or not we take them on or leave them sitting outside.

Often times as women we pack other peoples baggage into our lives. Most times, we’re smart enough to know when we’re taking on something we shouldn’t. But often times it’s those little bits and pieces that end up pushing us over our limit. As one of my mentors puts it, “It’s like seeing someone cloaked in crazy and then going over and borrowing their coat.”

One of the biggest challenges of any young woman is figuring out the difference between being a strong support and being a permanent loading dock. We can feel guilty for not solving problems that we see around us and usually the feeling persists whether logical or not.

Learning to discern what you can carry is part of deciding what kind of woman you will choose to be. While we often take on other’s burdens in an effort that comes from a kind place, taking on negativity with a helping hand can leave ourselves feeling weighted down by issues that are not our own.

Today, remember even the small pieces add up and make their way to the brim. Choose which weights you can carry and wisely put down the burdens you will leave alone.

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