What’s In Your Imaginary Shopping Bag?

shopping bagImagine that you have a shopping bag. It could be paper, plastic or reusable—your choice. Now imagine that there’s a big ole navel orange rattling around in that bag. And the bag is tied to your ankle.

Is this getting weird? Bear with me.

So, you’re going through your day with that bag with the orange strapped to your ankle. It’s just an orange. Not that big a deal. You can hide it for the most part, maybe even forget about it for a while. Until you try to get in the shower. Or roll over in bed. Or jump on to the subway at the last moment and the door closes on your bag.

Why in the heck am I even talking about this? Have I been spending too much time with preschoolers?

I am talking about imaginary shopping bags tied to your ankle because that is the best way I know to explain what it’s like to ignore something in your life. Something you’d rather not think about, for whatever reason. It’s too embarrassing. Or overwhelming. Or mortifying. Or bad. Or some combination of all those things.

So you choose not to think about it. Pretty convenient, right? Just ignore it and maybe it will go away. After all, time heals all wounds, right?

Well… Not really. Ignore something long enough, and that orange will grow bigger and heavier. The leash around your ankle will start to pull harder and harder. And the bag will get all tattered and gross-looking. People will start to wonder why you seem so pained all the time. (Did I mention that the bag is invisible to other people? It is.)

You stuck that orange in the bag in the first place because you thought, It’s just an orange. No big deal. But given enough time, lugging that orange around with you everywhere you go will start to feel pretty darn oppressive. It will feel like you’re chained to a small planet.

The irony is, the only thing you need to do to unstrap that bag from your ankle and get rid of the orange is to take a good look inside the bag. This whole time you’ve been dragging it around, that’s all you needed to do. It is never too late.

Telling yourself you just can’t deal with whatever it is, is a lie. It’s a trick of your inner critic (also known as your ego, your monkey mind, your mean voice), which is very invested in things staying the same. That little voice totally subscribes to the point of view that a known devil is better than an unknown devil. It can’t even begin to process the idea that that known devil was never a devil in the first place. It was just a boo-boo, a whoopsie, a mess-up—something you can forgive yourself. Yes, even that thing.

My point is this: Whatever it is you’re hoping will go away, you can handle it. Just look it in the face and it will immediately start to transform and shrink down to a nice little clementine size that you can practically eat in one bite. =)

If you’ve got something in your life that you’re done ignoring—whether it’s a student loan, something you said, something you didn’t say, something you did, something you didn’t do—maybe just this reminder that it’s normal, OK, and handle-able will nudge your psyche in just the right way to get you to take an objective look inside your bag.

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