Carrying two kayaks and a load of anxiety

I’d been waiting for this day for weeks. Finally the weather was nice enough for our inaugural kayak trip of the year.  It had been months since we last loaded them up on the car to set out. In the back of my mind I couldn’t shake the story of a family member who nearly lost a kayak in the middle of the road when their roof rack let loose. I had no desire to make that story my own.

Maybe we should drive with the window open I suggested to my daughter, looking up at my car’s sun roof. I had already slid open the panel revealing the glass directly above us to provide a better view of the kayaks perched on the roof rack overhead. But no sooner did we pull out of our driveway that I realized I’d made an incredible mistake.  With the roof open, I couldn’t ignore the loud snarling wind as it swirled around the kayaks. It sounded so ominous. Despite closing it almost as quickly as I had opened it, it was just enough time to launch my own personal wave of anxiety. Watch them and tell me if they move at all, I firmly instructed.  A few moments later, one of the straps tapped nervously at the roof. Did it move?

 Nope. She reassured me. Nothing moved.

An excruciating ten minutes later we made it to the lake with no issues. As I think back to the feelings I had that first outing this year, I can’t help but think that how I carried our kayaks resembles how we often carry our own loads in life.

What you carry…

What you carry creates a distraction.

While I watched the road as we headed up the street, my senses were on high alert for any changes with the kayaks. I listened for any shifting or rattling that could warn of any issues. The smallest sound multiplied my anxiety. It’s the same with the baggage we try to carry in life. Out of sight does not mean out of mind.  Our attention and focus are impacted. If we want to improve our focus where we are trying to make progress, we need to be careful what we continue to carry.

What you carry creates resistance.

Even when empty, kayak racks on the roof of a car create resistance. With kayaks strapped on, the resistance is magnified. It comes at a cost. For my car, a load can reduce my gas mileage and make me consider what the safest speed is to ensure safe travel. In our lives, the load we carry also comes with a cost. Resistance can make moving forward difficult. Sometimes even the smallest step can feel monumental. When you feel weary, worn out, exhausted or just spent you may be dealing with resistance against your load.

What you carry limits where you can go.

When my kayaks are on my roof, my car is significantly taller than it is otherwise. Suddenly I’m no longer able to drive without consideration of where I might get stuck. Parking garages are just one example of a situation that becomes impassable. Our load changes which paths are accessible. In life if we’re going to have the impact we desire, we can’t allow our loads to make those spaces unreachable. Sometimes we need to let go of what we’re carrying to get to where we want to go.

Maybe all of this is hitting close to home, maybe even too close to home. You know the feeling of being distracted, burdened, impacted by resistance and feeling limited. If so, it’s time to lighten your load.

4 Ways to Lighten Your Load:

1. Create margin by learning to say ‘no’

The blank space in margin serves a purpose. It allows us to give the content of the page the attention it deserves. The space gives us the ability to enjoy what we’ve just experienced without crowding our thoughts. Life is no different. If we pack our days from start to finish without any “blank space,” we miss the opportunity to savor what we’ve experienced. Restore margin by allowing yourself down time to pray and process the day. God won’t fight His way into your cluttered day, allow for space to hear His still voice. You may need to say “no” to activities that seem good but rob you of vital down time. Choose to find margin in your day.

2. Unpack and move on

Leave the past in the past and step forward lighter. Everyone has a past. Some of us may have more drama in our past than others, but rest assured we’ve all been through something. If what you’ve been through is stacked like sealed boxes in the corner of a garage from a move 5 years ago, it may be time to sort through them and do some house cleaning. I’ve recently been doing some sorting in my family’s garage. Several of the boxes that seemed necessary to move several years ago turned out to be just stuff that took up space needlessly for years. I was amazed how little was left when I earnestly sorted through it. The same can be for our emotional baggage. Find a friend or a counselor to help you sort. Work through what has lingered so that you can move on without it.

3. Use what you’ve carried

A kayak stored well on a roof rack makes it available for use. The best part of having been through something in our lives is that we can pay it forward by helping someone else get through their challenges. Find a way to encourage someone else who is dealing with their own load. Compassion will lighten your load as well as theirs!

4. Remember your successes

When we become anxious, we remind ourselves of all the possibilities for things to go wrong. Take a step back and remember the times things have gone well. In my case, the more I load and travel with our kayaks, the more I’m reassured that we will get to our destination with everything still intact. Be sure to remember your victories and use them to help quiet the whispers of anxiety.

I hope my adventures with my kayak have helped to think a bit about what load you are carrying. As always I welcome your comments. Let me know how this has helped you consider what you carry. And, if this hit home for you, please consider sharing. You might just have a friend or family member who needs this message too.

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A Special Note:

Last week the surprising suicide deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain brought to light how burdens can feel unbearable. If you or someone you care about are dealing with a load that feels insurmountable, please know that help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or via online chat.