These are my Backpack Words.

I’d like to tell you my therapist never had any Backpack Words for me.

There was nothing worth stuffing into my backpack like those pamphlets with smiling children on the covers in waiting rooms.

I’d like to tell you those four months I spent carting my baggage up two flights of stairs wasn’t worth it. Because I know you are looking for an excuse. I know we are all looking for an excuse.

If I had it my way, I’d tell you none of it stuck with me. But something did.

Something small and measly and terrifyingly accurate, to be honest.

She said Happy People spread themselves out, so that when one puzzle piece falls out from underneath them, they can leapfrog onto a new one.

She didn’t want me making any one thing my world. And at the time, that upset me. Even now, that’s hard to swallow.

If you tell a passionate girl she’s going to have to pull the blinders off and ease her grip on the reins, she’s going to tug harder. Look closer. Press the mute button.

She’s not going to want someone challenging her. Who does?

That girl is still inside me. She’s not squeezing reigns so much anymore as learning to master juggling and backpacks and feeling heavy & light.

She is learning to love everything she loves, but always more than One Thing.

She isn’t spreading thin so much as widening a road, paved with the words in her backpack.

You’ll find her there, Out There, in that space of land nobody dares walk. The space we’ve given up one. She carries her backpack full of words, each a necessary foundation.

She walks in the center of two yellow lines—between too much baggage and cutting ties with everyone, everything.

And she is waiting for you to meet her halfway at a rest stop in Topeka. At a gas station in St. Louis.

She will start here, with the words her therapist gave her. And you will start there, with the ones your Mama tucked next to your peanut butter & jelly sandwich.

And in the middle, when you meet, you can share a booth in a diner off the dirt road.  You can pull out your words, set them on the counter, and she hers.

You’ll keep what you need, toss what you don’t, and swap what you’re desperate to borrow right now. Until you meet again. Under different circumstances with different backpacks.

What are your backpack words?


10 responses to “These are my Backpack Words.

  1. I like the backpack full of words. I’d never thought of it like that. This is an inspirational post, and I know I’ve said that before. However, it is one of those weeks in which I’m interviewing a lot of people for a long, important article, trying to meet another deadline, and my son is sick. It does feel like we carry a lot, and to find the line between going crazy and spreading to thin is in reality thin. I like your metaphor/ story of standing in the middle of the road on the two yellow lines. Great post!

  2. Thanks, Rebecca. Your comments always make me happy. I’ve never been a mother, but I imagine it’s hard to watch your child feeling awful and trying to balance all of that at once. Hope it’s going OK?

  3. I’ve never heard the term “backpack words” before. I love it and I’m not even sure what it means. (That happens to me a lot… the byproduct, I think, of simply love-love-loving language and all the things we can make it do.)

  4. I just made it up, to be honest, though I’m sure others have said it too. But we carry all sorts of advice with us and we carry all sorts of baggage, so somehow that became what it did. Glad it’s a hit with the language lovers!

  5. Thanks for asking. He has an ear infection, cold and fever. My blog reading has suffered a little in the past two weeks because of my work load and due to mommyhood, but like your post talks about, we strive to be more than one thing in life.

    And, your posts always make me happy. I really do try to keep up. I actually created a folder in my e-mail called “Posts to Read.” A post might be two weeks old when I read it, but I will get to it.

    Thanks for your inspiration!

  6. Ah, ear infections = not fun. And everything else on top of it is worse. Hope it gets better for him soon. Especially in time for the weather to warm up.

    Smart move. Got to do that, too. There’s never enough time to read and see and do everything.

  7. notdeaddinosaur

    You’ve got an interesting (probably unintentional) homonym:
    “Reins” are what you use to control a horse.
    “Reign” is what royalty does.
    Does “pulling back on the reigns” mean ruling more closely, lording over people ever more tightly, making them do just what you want them to? Because it will always backfire.

    In case I haven’t said this explicitly (at least in the last five minutes), you write exquisitely.

  8. Thanks! Means a lot coming from you 🙂 I couldn’t remember if it was “reins” or “reigns” but forgot, sometime between writing it and transferring it to my blog, to look it up. Actually going to switch it out now.

  9. lettersfromasomedayeditor

    This is an absolutely beautiful metaphor. I am the type of girl who needs to swallow this advice, and will find it hard to do so, but hearing these words alone is helpful. Thank you for writing this.

  10. Pingback: 19 Things I Learned In College (Among Many Others) | Rewriting Life

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