The Load We Carry
I recently stumbled across a Facebook post where someone asked what she needed to pack for visiting Disney World. I’m a Disney nerd with an annual pass, so I was curious.
The suggestions included moleskin (for blisters), flip flops (to put on during rain storms), an umbrella, ponchos, water bottles (with advice on where to get refills — not water fountains), straws (because Disney now uses paper straws and ugh, gross, apparently), lots and lots of plastic baggies, chargers with cords for cell phones, and a Swiffer along with bottled liquid hand soap for the hotel room. Note the word included. The list was much longer.
Disney is my happy place, but I acknowledge that it is also a problem to be solved. It is often hot and crowded and always expensive.
I’m lucky because I live a little over an hour away and with that annual pass can dip into a park for a few hours and not feel as if anything is at stake. I am not a family of four from Wisconsin who has saved for a long time and needs to get the most from my money.
That being said, the list seems a little over the top for me. My preference is to wear my “adventure pants,” which is what I call pants that have a lot of pockets, allowing me to carry no bags at all. If I find I need something once I’m in the park, I can purchase it. It’s not like I’m out in the middle of nowhere. Around Cinderella’s castle are stores, a first aid station, and plenty of food and drink.
The park visitors who carry bags prepared for every possible contingency imaginable as if they are going to war against Mickey Mouse remind me of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
In her autobiographical account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed names her backpack Monster. She gives a detailed description of all of the necessities she must cram into her backpack and her laborious attempt to do so. Finally, after a great deal of sweaty effort in her hotel room before setting off for the PCT, she manages the job only to find that Monster “wouldn’t budge.”
Strayed writes, “I squatted and grasped its frame more robustly and tried to lift it again. Again it did not move. Not even an inch. I tried to lift it with both hands, with my legs braced beneath me, while attempting to wrap it in a bear hug, with all of my breath and my might and my will, with everything in me. And still it would not come.”
Eventually, Strayed figures out a way to lift the pack, but, ultimately after hiking for a bit, she redefines what is absolutely essential and pares down with the help of more experienced hikers.
What’s essential and why?
For Strayed, that’s a life or death question given the conditions she faces on the PCT.
For those of us hanging out with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy not so much — yet it feels that way.
And we feel that way because we are ignorant, a key ingredient of suffering. We are ignorant of the Buddhist idea of emptiness. We are sure from the top of our hats meant to keep us from getting sunburned to our new walking shoes (which we’ll change to flip flops if it rains) meant to stave off blisters (which we’ll put moleskin on if needed) that we have an essential self that must be protected at all cost.
So we suffer.
That family from Wisconsin will push their stroller wild eyed determined not to miss a thing as their kids whine and beg to be allowed to return to the hotel (liquid hand soap in a bottle or not) and play at the pool.
I’m no better. My preference for traveling lightly is the same egocentric attempt to be comfortable but expressed differently.
We are all so determined to avoid suffering that we create suffering through all that we carry in the attempt.
This is best exemplified in tarot cards by the ten of wands as the figure bends over barely able to move forward due to the weight on his back.
The good news is that, in tarot, ten is the last of the numbered cards in each suit. He’s reaching the end of his journey and can put down his burden soon.
We can put down our burden too if we can recognize that so much that feels like life or death and oh so important in the storyline we’ve created with ourselves as the stars is really an imagined burden that we can put down any time we’d like.
It’s like magic.
And we don’t have to visit the most magical place on earth to do it.