By Ox Drover
I got to thinking the other day about how our strength and ability to carry an emotional load of “stress” is sort of like a long-distance walk or ride or race. People who travel in various long distance endurance races, or just for their own purposes, have to limit the amount of weight that they carry. Some people who do long distances on foot even cut the handle off their toothbrushes to reduce the load they have to carry by even a fraction of an ounce.
If I had to carry a five pound sack of flour to our local post office, which is about three miles away from my farm, up and down several steep hills, I could do it without a great deal of time involved, but would probably leave me feeling that that five pound sack of flour was “pretty heavy” by the time I got there. I am sure by the time I got to the post office, I would be switching it from hand to hand pretty rapidly as it seemed to gain weight. I could probably even carry that five pound sack of flour as far as the nearest town, about 13 miles away, though I would sure be tired when I got there.
However, if I had to pick up a fifty-pound sack of horse feed and carry it to our local post office, I could probably do it, but I imagine it would take me several days to accomplish it. If I had to carry that fifty-pound sack of horse feed to town, I could probably do it as well, but I would be physically and mentally exhausted when I arrived there several weeks, or more, after I started.
It isn’t just the weight of what we have to “carry” in terms of a “load,” but also the distance we must carry it. When I was a kid I saw a western movie where the guy is crossing the desert and he has a pack with enough gold to make him rich for the rest of his life. Eventually, though, it becomes so heavy that he throws it away in order to get across the desert alive.
As we go through our lives we all have stress to carry, and the weight of that stress can be pretty heavy, for example, a divorce or a death in the family, but we recover from carrying that heavy weight. We rest and recoup our strength, before we progress on further. With the psychopath adding not only weight to our stress level, but keeping the stress at a high level, both the weight and the distance (time) we must carry the stress becomes overwhelming.
We may find ourselves in the position of the prospector coming out of the desert with a pack filled with gold, where we have become so tired from the weight and the distance that we have carried something, even something valuable to us, that we have to throw it down and leave it in order to survive for one more step.
Sometimes we “throw down” our careers, our education, or even taking care of our own health because we are so stressed out and so tired from dealing with the psychopath that it seems we don’t have the energy to accomplish taking care of these things. We feel as if our very survival depends on dropping some of the “weight” of “things to do” off our backs immediately. We become distracted by the weight of the demands of our families, our children, our jobs, and our psychopaths that we drop the “gold”–in this case, ourselves, in an effort to reduce our stress and “survive.”
Lightening the load
The most important thing I think I have learned from the chaotic experiences I’ve had with the psychopaths is that I have to be in this for the long distance course. I have to reduce the stress and weight of the “things” I carry so that I have the strength and resources to keep on carrying the “gold”—myself—for the distance.
I have to quit trying to carry the burdens of others who would rather have me carry them than hoist their own packs on their own backs and assume responsibility for themselves. I have to quit carrying unnecessary trivia, and distinguish between important things I need and things that I can do without. When it comes to “shared responsibilities,” I have to do my share and expect others to do theirs, to demand it if necessary, and to use my judgment to decide what is a fair division of those shared responsibilities.
I’m in this life for the long haul, not just for a sprint! So I’ve got to adjust the weight of my burdens accordingly and put my own long term best interest and my ability to survive foremost in my own mind and heart!