Human beings are vessels. We hold emotion, knowledge, opinions, ideas, intuition, empathy, and space in addition to all the physical stuff that our bodies house that keep us going. There is, however, a point at which the vessel becomes full.
There’s a story about rocks, pebbles, sand, and water being added to a big jar in front of a class. The point of the lesson was to be sure to keep sacred the big things, otherwise the little things will take over everything and there won’t be room for the big things, the things that are most important to you.
There’s another lesson in this though. Imagine the full jar sitting on the table with water all the way to the top, saturating the sand between the pebbles, the spaces between the pebbles and rocks. What happens when another bit of water is poured into the jar?
The water spills out over the top. It can hold no more. There is truly no additional room for one more drop. (I’m reminded of a scene from Monty Python, “Just one tiny wafer thin mint…”)
Something has to be removed in order for more water, or something else, to fit.
I remember talking with a friend whose child was in my class. The little one melted like ice cream in the car on the 45 minute drive home. Melted. Yelled and screamed and cried. Talked about how kids treated each other, how hard it was to concentrate, how difficult it was to keep up, how much they hated recess and lunch and PE, how no one ever shut up, how frustrating it was to not be able to keep up, to take so long, to feel like everyone was watching even though the teacher said to take their time. The injustice that was little kid friendships.
The child’s vessel broke open in the backseat of the car on the way home and left behind the remains of the day to be cleaned up by someone else later.
Everyone has a breaking point. A point at which nothing else fits. There is no more room in the vessel for a wafer thin mint or another drop of water or even another grain of sand.
Another friend said that right now, no one is living their best life. They’re right. No one is living their best life. We move through our days, masked, dodging other people, staying at home instead of going out, questioning every cough, sneeze, and headache, avoiding the news of more deaths as we’re able, becoming more resentful of the way the past several months have treated all of us. Reminding kids that you can’t hold their hand, or hug them the way you used to. Holding things together long enough to get back to our homes, classrooms, and offices to find a safe spot underneath a desk or in a dark corner of the room to have a good cry, letting tears cleanse the anxiety and overall crappiness of the day…the weeks…the months.
A wise woman told me that tears shouldn’t be held back–they have a purpose and can’t be held in forever. They carry with them all the emotions we can’t let out in the moment. They hold all the space we held for others. They hold all the words said in haste, out of frustration, in anger. They hold all the disappointment of what should have been, all the progress that should have been made, all the goals planned. Letting them out, is letting go. Cleansing.
So many of our vessels are on the brink of spilling…or exploding. None of us are living our best lives right now. The sand and water fills our jars and the big rocks get pulled out and set to the side, the pebbles emptied in a pile to make more room for sand and water because that’s what needs to happen right now.
We need to pause. Cry. Cleanse. And we need to let our kids do the same. So many of them are also not living their best lives with playdates and birthday parties, close whispers with friends and games of tag without masks. They’re stuck behind screens at home and at school, distanced from friends in a room, reminded a thousand times a day to put their mask up and stay a pool noodle away from their friends, not getting to see the family and friends who live beyond their homes. All of the connections we need to survive have been turned into Zoom meetings, online wine classes and happy hours, facetimed playdates and otherwise not-connectedness.
So pause. Cry. Cleanse. Let the jar overflow and make space for those things that are truly important: being human, connection, however you can get it safely.
And leave the melted bits and overflowed muck on the floor of the car for someone else to clean up later…or not. It’s ok to leave it.