Over the years, I’ve gone round and round with my style when it comes to purses.
At fourteen, it was the duffel. Everybody had one, and I loved to carry mine (Esprit brand), dangling from the crook in my elbow — the same arm that carried my school books from class to class.
At sixteen, I moved into the shopper. Not because I needed a bag that large. But because they were in style. I had all of three things in that bag. A wallet. Some lipstick. And my car keys. It was light as a feather.
In college and law school, I went small again, probably due to the large amount of books I was lugging around in a very heavy backpack. My focus was on wristlets. Small cross-body bags that were more like wallets with a strap. Or the teeniest of tiny shoulder bags with straps so short that the bag hung from my shoulder just below my arm pit. In each of these bags, there was just enough room for my money and license, and…you guessed it, my lipstick.
This season stuck for a while.
Until I got married and acquired a husband that constantly handed me his sunglasses, wallet, and keys when we were out on the town.
Back to the shopper.
And then I had a baby. And I grew a diaper bag. And I felt like every time I left the house, I was packing for a four-day trip out of town.
So I fought my way back into a very small purse that I threw into the diaper bag each time we went out. When the hubs asked me to take his things, they went in the diaper bag. Or on the floor board of our car.
And then I realized we constantly had things strewn from here to the four corners of the universe. I constantly had something in my hands. And I constantly left a trail of our things behind us everywhere we went.
Back to the shopper.
I’ve been a large shopper, hobo, satchel, tote, messenger girl ever since.
I try really hard to keep my very giant purse clean and organized, but it’s hard, especially when I’m busy. Which is like all the time.
It always starts well.
But about 10 days after a purse purge, I find it messy again, having been stuffed with this and that while we run from here to there and back again.
I tolerate the mess for a while, and then, during a fit of rage usually brought on by something altogether different, I’ll be searching in the depths of my purse looking for something I can’t find, and I’ll snap. And then I’ll grab the innocent bag by the bottom, flip it over, and shake it like I’m wrestling an alligator, spewing things all over my floor in the process.
I always feel so good afterwards.
But you would not believe the things I’ve found in there. Or – maybe you will.
Scooby Doo action figures.
Half-eaten snack bars of all varieties.
Silverware. (Like the metal kind from the drawer in my kitchen.)
Family-sized bottles of insect repellent.
Three containers of dental floss.
These are just a few of the treasures I’ve found in my purse from time to time.
And I suppose this is a good thing. Because if we’re ever lost in the wilderness, we can share the remnants of a snack bar, floss our teeth for days, and do magic tricks by the glimmer of a flashlight to keep each other occupied. And we won’t get eaten by mosquitoes.
So this summer we traveled much more than usual. And my purse got really messy and really heavy, really fast. But because I was in transit, I tolerated the mess and the bulk, lugging around a bag that felt like it had a 50 pound weight in it for the better part of July and August.
I got used to the weight. So I didn’t clean my purse out immediately upon returning home. Because, well, who has time for that?
Much to my chagrin, in fact, despite being home from our last trip since August 10, I didn’t really clean my purse out until two weeks ago. It came in a fit of rage much like the one described above, when I flipped my mustard colored hobo bag with 1,000 exterior pockets upside down, and half the universe fell out of it.
But it still felt really heavy. So I began searching each of the exterior pockets, trying to locate the stowaways. And I found not one, but SIX, large rocks that collectively weighed about five pounds.
What in the world?
And then I remembered strolling the beach in Southern California with Kory during our anniversary get away, searching for unique rocks to bring home to the kids. I stuffed them in my purse so we wouldn’t leave them in the rental car. And there they stayed for almost two months.
No wonder my purse was so heavy. No wonder it was a burden to carry. No wonder my back hurt.
But I’d forgotten I put them there. And there they stayed.
Sometimes, I think life is like that. Like a big purse with 1,000 exterior pockets, stuffed to the brim with who knows what.
We run around from here to there, stuffing the pockets of our purse with so many things. Activities, responsibilities, to-do lists, appointments, careers, leadership roles, relationships, volunteer time, fundraisers, projects, kids. And each of these things can bring us much joy. But they can also bring us stress and burden and fatigue and anxiety.
But we live this way.
For months or years on end.
And before we know it, we’ve forgotten what life was like before the purse with 1,000 exterior pockets. We get used to all the stuff. And the stress, burden, fatigue, and anxiety the stuff brings along.
It feels normal to us.
Despite the fact that, in reality, we’re carrying around 6 large rocks in the pockets of our purse that don’t really belong there. And they’re weighing us down.
I think this happens so often with the things we do.
We agree to do this. And we agree to do that. And along the way, we forget why we agreed to do these things in the first place, and we forget to ask ourselves if there’s any compelling reason to keep doing them.
We keep doing them just because.
Because it’s normal.
Because we’re used to it.
Because once upon a time, we said “yes”.
But sometimes, I think we need to be willing to flip our purse over and wrestle it like an alligator. To cull through the mess, sort the keepers, and discard the rest.
I think sometimes, we need to be willing to say “no” to those things we’ve been doing forever so we can create the margin to say “yes” to something new.
And I think sometimes, we just need to lighten our load. To get rid of six rocks we’ve been lugging around for no reason at all and be OK with the idea of leaving the exterior pockets of our purse empty for a while.
Do you need to take some rocks out of your purse today?