Real Talk: Sack of Potatoes

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    by Junita Thakorlal

    So, here’s the thing – ever notice how everyone’s problems seem larger than life? I’m shouldering the load just fine, thank you very much.

    I’m known for my laugh. Sometimes, I’ll have a laugh attack over something that isn’t even funny. Despite living a genuinely happy life, worry still underlies each moment. I think about my aging parents, how I forgot to pay my visa on time, the shoddy job the painter did, how my love handles are growing out of hand, my unsightly toe polish, my meeting tomorrow morning, the lump in my breast which I am ignoring, my ex-bestie’s mom’s cousin’s uncle’s son who passed away in a horrific accident yesterday, and the list goes on.

    I reached out to my circle of friends, and have found that it is a common phenomenon to have doubt and fear creep in between moments of the day. We are often conflicted about things that are out of our control, and if we don’t expel them, then the stress manifests in our bodies.

    A friend of mine (let’s call her Shelina) shared a story:
    Shelina was asked to do an exercise which consisted of carrying around a 10lb bag of potatoes. For 3 days, whatever she did and wherever she went, she had to carry that sack of potatoes with her. She carried that thing like we do our cell phones – in our hand. When she went for a walk, it eventually became heavy on her arms and shoulders. When she was watching television, it would sit annoyingly in her lap. Even when she went to the washroom, she took it with her. When she went to sleep at night, the smell of potatoes permeated through the room and into her sleep, which made her toss and turn.

    After a couple of days of this, not only was she irritated, but she was sore in various places from carrying around the burden, she had lost her peaceful beauty sleep, and the stench of potatoes never left her. She became so annoyed that on the last night, she left the sack of potatoes outside of her bedroom door just so she could have a peaceful rest, but not before she fought with her husband for something extremely minor that wasn’t even his fault. The following morning, she got called out for abandoning the potatoes.

    The lesson in this exercise was not to test her patience, but in how we perceive worry.
    Imagine that that sack of potatoes contains our worries: the more worries, the more potatoes. We carry that weight and burden with us all day, every day. Eventually, the worry consumes us as the bag becomes heavy. We get impatient and easily irritated which sometimes affects our relationships with those around us; we can’t sleep at night as worries keep our minds active; shoulder and neck muscles become tight and stiff without us realizing, and if we don’t get it taken care of, it might lead to bigger health issues. When we worry, all of the things that Shelina went through, manifest in our bodies and minds. We often are so consumed that we forget to be grateful.

    I feel so lucky to live in a first world country, where there are amenities to enjoy, and yoga sessions to flush out the toxins; where I can breathe in the clean mountain air after picking up my nephews from school and taking them on a hike with me; where both of my parents are seconds away from me so that I can hug them. Often when I am consumed by my own struggles and reservations, I think of Shelina’s story and immediately take a deep breath, and mentally turn my russet potatoes into yummy tater tots by remembering the things that I’m grateful for, and what is within my own control to change.

    Everyone has concerns and pressures in life, but it’s a choice on how big we want our potatoes to be, and how far we want to carry them.