Spirituality for Today – Spring 2019 – Volume 23, Issue 3

Removing the Yoke

Janice Alonso

Recently, I bought a new purse, a smaller one. Now this is a big change for me as I have carried an over-sized shoulder bag for years. The purse is loaded with things I feel I need (or feel I might need) during the day. For the past eleven years, I've had one or more grandchildren in diapers and a mother I carted back and forth to doctors and physical therapy appointments. I've carried a hard/paperback book to read while I waited through gymnastic, ballet, medical, and various other activities requiring me to sit in a waiting area. I also stow a large notebook so I can take advantage of a writing opportunity should it arise.

Over the last year and a half, the last little one is potty-trained – no need for bottles, special food, diapers, wipes, or a change of clothes. Mother is in a wheelchair and lives in an assisted living facility – no need to include the handicapped sign or folder with her medical records as the facility meets me with a van and brings all the necessary information. I'm reading more on an eReader– no need for weighty books, just a thin tablet. I've also realized that a small notebook works just as well as the legal-sized pads for those creative bursts. These changes plus the neck and shoulder soreness I've been feeling prompted the decision to down-size.

When I transferred all the remaining "stuff," I could barely zip the top of the new purse closed. I dumped the contents of my bag onto the bed and then examined each item. This is what I found: a checkbook-sized wallet containing a driver's license, insurance cards, multiple credits cards, some cash, numerous reward cards, old receipts, and expired coupons a makeup pouch with five tubes of lipstick, huge emery board, several rolls of breath mints, and a bag cough drops assorted items such as glasses, car key, hairbrush, tissues, extra-large bottle of aspirins, and multiple writing implements.

As I studied the things on my bed, I decided maybe it was time to assess all the stuff I was hauling around with me, the "hidden" things that were weighing me down. The first part of this culling had been easy – my lifestyle had changed. Now would be a self-examination to see what I really needed and what was unnecessary.

This experience led me to think about what I might be carrying around in life that was hanging heavy "around my neck," old habits that I should shed. I carry around guilt, fear, self-imposed agendas, and control issues.

Let's begin with my old buddy guilt. There are several family relationships I wished I'd handled better, one in particular. My mother had four brothers, but the middle brother was a difficult man. He fought in the Korean War and when he returned home, he wasn't the same man according to my mother. He never married, was short-tempered, miserly, and self-centered. I always included him in holiday and family functions. He spent many vacations in my home visiting his "favorite" niece. He spent most of the time sucking out the fun for the rest of us. He died ten years ago from a stroke, and I'm ashamed I felt no sadness at his passing. In fact, his death was a relief because he took advantage of my mother's good and generous nature. About four or five years later, Mother and I had a terrible argument about him. I came home and prayed. I did finally forgive him. I realized then he had issues I just wasn't equipped to understand or handle. I forgave my uncle, God forgave me, and I forgave myself. Guilt is a wonderful burden to shed.

It wasn't until recently I realized I had any fears. Mother's fall in 2016 set in motion a string of events that conditioned me to worry and be fearful for her safety. I began to limit my activities to be "ready" in case she needed me. The problem was I allowed that fear to breed resentment. Now, Mother nor her fall was responsible for this. My reaction to that event was the culprit. After many conversations with God, I came to understand that my reaction was human, but my method of dealing with it wasn't Christian. Once I transferred fear's grip to God, my heart became lighter. Anxiety is a wonderful burden to shed.

Self-imposed agendas now that's a big one! And I believe I am the master of that fault. For years, I've created and carried around a "to-do" list, even to the point of creating sub lists. At the end of each month, I write three categories: Writing, Household, and Shopping. Under each heading, I list five or six things I want to accomplish the following month. These lists are in addition to the daily list. There's nothing wrong with goals, but the problem begins when these lists run your attitude. At the end of the day, or month, instead of focusing on what I'd checked off, I zeroed in on what I hadn't done. The Bible tells us God will provide what we need each day. I still schedule appointments, exercise classes, and general to-do lists; I simply write them in pencil. Self-imposed agendas are wonderful burdens to shed.

Feeling responsible and the need to be in control are quite weighty. We all have responsibilities, to ourselves, others, and life in general. When I was growing up my job was to make good grades in school. When I became a teacher, I created lesson plans and tended to the needs of each individual student. Then when I became a wife and mother, I focused my energies on those roles. My sons grew up, married, and now have families of their own. As much as I love and care for those children and grandchildren, I must accept that I am not in control of their lives. I'm flattered when they seek my advice or want me to be a listener so they can vent, but their final choices most often are theirs. These days I turn my attention to my mother and husband. It's a gift to still have both in my life. The need to control is a wonderful burden to shed.

When I looked at the purse's contents scattered across the bed, I knew I didn't need to go back to a larger bag. I needed a smaller wallet with fewer credit cards and no checkbook holder. I placed my reward cards on an app on my phone. I needed a smaller makeup bag with one tube of lipstick, one roll of breath mints, and a few cough drops. I still needed my car key, eyeglasses, and brush, but one pen and one pencil do my writing jobs splendidly. I also traded in my 500 caplet size aspirin bottle for a mini pack. The purse zips easily now, with a little room left for some new things in my life.