The Stuff That Weighs You Down

A photoshopped or filtered photo with a heavily saturated warm pastel color palette, featuring little spindly pink flowers, an orange butterfly on the left of the image, and some kind of light-colored circles that may be out-of-focus dandelion fluff or dust or sunlight reflections. The gray serif font in the middle reads, "If you wanna fly, you gotta give up the stuff that weighs you down." It also attributes the work to a photograph, saying "Photo by Joel Olives" in a new, darker gray sanserif font at the bottom, and lists what is presumably the name of a site or company, "Butterflies and Pebbles," in a third sanserif font across the bottom of the entire image.
A photoshopped or filtered photo with a heavily saturated warm pastel color palette, featuring little spindly pink flowers, an orange butterfly on the left of the image, and some kind of light-colored circles that may be out-of-focus dandelion fluff or dust or sunlight reflections. The gray serif font in the middle reads, “If you wanna fly, you gotta give up the stuff that weighs you down.” It also attributes the work to a photograph, saying “Photo by Joel Olives” in a new, darker gray sanserif font at the bottom, and lists what is presumably the name of a site or company, “Butterflies and Pebbles,” in a third sanserif font across the bottom of the entire image.

I love how this image feels positively weightless!

It’s like how the world would look if gravity wasn’t even a thing!

But I mean, still more fun than outer space. There’s oxygen here.

Does it really matter whether this gentle universal message is being shared by a physically healthy and mentally/emotionally supported person with a solid 401K and too many possessions, or if it’s being shared by a physically disabled and mentally ill person who is not entirely confident from month to month that they will be able to pay for all the things that they rely on for survival?

I mean, they both still have baggage to unload.

But poor people just also have extra baggage to unload before they can responsibly think about something like flight, amirite?

Okay, I have to push “pause” on the sarcasm button because I’m less comfortable leaving this open to minor misinterpretation than usual.

The point of invoking disability and poverty in this example is NOT to suggest that you, dear reader of any ability or financial status, are expected to feel sorry for “those people” on account of how their existence is.

Nor is the point of invoking disability and poverty to imply that you ought to be more grateful for all that you have, because “it could all be taken away in an instant.”

I’m not invoking disability and poverty as an appeal to pathos, or as a very special lesson, or as a cautionary tale.

I am using these relevant examples because CONTEXT MATTERS.

Allow me to offer a brief, honest anecdote in the interest of developing a thematically appropriate metaphorical framework.

One fine spring morning, not so very many years ago, I paused as I was about to open the latch of my back door and step outside.

There was a sparrow on the top step. I held my breath and hoped I wouldn’t scare it away.

It was just a magical little moment.

I marveled at the confluence of circumstances that had brought me and this little bird together for such a brief time.

Then the sparrow pooped on my stoop and flew away.

Of course, in order to take flight, birds freely and routinely give up the stuff that’s weighing them down without any regard for the mess it leaves behind.

Just look at how fluffy this picture is.

It’s like all you’ll ever have to throw away is cotton balls and glitter.

I get that the macro is not meant to be taken entirely literally, and that it’s referring to, like, emotional weight and not necessarily physical things.

Trust me, I read that message loud and clear.

But this macro wants you to perceive the relationship between you and your troubles to be like the relationship between a cute little sparrow bird and the way in which it’s perfectly poised to evacuate meaningless excess because physics (e.g., gravity) and biology (e.g., evolution) have been collaborating for millennia to bolster its precious body.

In life, one charming li’l stoop sparrow poops and takes flight and goes home to its cozy bird house and 2.5 chicks, and another adorable li’l flutter bucket gets snagged by a hawk and its untended eggs get eaten by a weasel.

That’s nature for ya.

But that doesn’t leave room for all the other factors that need to be accounted for in this metaphor, tho. Like society.

 animated gif from the ’90s movie “Billy Madison” (which is definitely a terrible movie but it burned so many quotes int0 my brain) of actor Adam Sandler saying “society” while doing air quotes with his fingers to explain a heavy-handed metaphor

Here’s where I’ll depart from any lingering evolutionary parallels, because social Darwinism is just racism, and we’re coming back around to the land of choices, folx. 

You’ve got to be able to choose to let go of the things that are weighing you down in order for this macro to work.

If you can’t choose to let go of something that\’s holding you back, you don’t get to fly.

For many folx who have access to appropriate treatment for any conditions that they are managing, though, it isn’t those disabilities or illnesses that are weighing them down. The heaviest barrier is the people around them who don’t understand that they won’t “get better” or “try harder” than they already are.

For folx who live with the most unpleasant realities of poverty on the daily, it’s not an option to just “give up” being poor. I’m pretty sure that the majority of people living beneath whatever the poverty line is defined as in their own neck of the woods would like to give up on debt and exhaustion in exchange for a nice long flight (or metaphorical flight of their preference).

It’s the people clinging to a dysfunctional system because it’s not terrible for them that prevent the system from letting go of what’s weighing it down.

Sometimes the stuff that’s weighing you down the most is not, in fact, coming from inside the house.

I mean, still check in on what’s coming from inside the house.

Poop away, my little birdies.

You may need to learn to poop more freely and efficiently, like that unencumbered and dropping-optimized stoop sparrow, and of course it’s okay if you need to practice that kind of jettisoning.

I firmly believe that we all have metaphorical emotional pooping to do, and that there is no shame in admitting this.

Just be careful about letting go of so much of what you’re carrying inside that you forget who fed it to you in the first place.

It’s not necessarily your little birdie poops that are contaminating rivers and polluting the groundwater, eh?

That metaphor got grosser than I originally anticipated.

Sorry-not-sorry.

Animated gif of actor Lucille Ball, in character as “Lucy,” shrugging broadly and and squinching her face in a “Whaddaya do?” kind of expression

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