Manchild 1 loves these books we have by Jon J Muth. Zen Ties and Zen Shorts. They feature a giant panda named Stillwater who befriends three children in his neighborhood and shares with them little bits of wisdom. It’s fun to hear the Manchild say Stillwater-inspired things like, “My cup holds emptiness now,” after he has finished a glass of milk. I recommend the books as they are both well-written and well-illustrated, but that isn’t exactly what I am here to talk about tonight. Nope, tonight I am setting myself a Stillwater-inspired resolution.
In Zen Shorts, Stillwater tells each of the children a story when they come to visit him. The youngest child, Karl, comes over to swim with Stillwater in his inflatable pool. Karl is upset because his older brother, Michael, told him he was bringing too many pool toys over to Stillwater’s. The whole time they are swimming and playing in the pool, Karl talks about how he’d like to get back at Michael for being so bossy. Enter Stillwater. He tells Karl a story about two monks traveling through a town. They see a rich lady who needs help getting across a mud puddle. Her attendants can’t help her because their hands are full. The older monk picks her up and carries her across the mud, then sets her down. She shoves him out of the way without a word. The two monks walk on and several hours later the younger monk mentions how rude and ungrateful he thought that woman was. The older monk replies, “I set the woman down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?” Stillwater asks Karl if he even realized how much fun they were having, or if he was too preoccupied with holding on to his anger at Michael, and Karl is finally able to put it to rest.
Lately I’ve realized that I do tend to carry some things for a long time. Unfortunately, they aren’t always the light and fun and useful things. More often they are the heavy burdens that serve no purpose other than to drag me down. And sometimes I let these burdens get in the way of me doing things for other people when I see that they need help. Or I let them fester in my mind and keep me from enjoying the moment. And my children. And the fun we have. My goal is to learn to set those heavy burdens down quickly so that I am free to help where I am needed, free to have fun when it pops up out of nowhere, free to be spontaneous and adventurous and hilarious so that I can make the boys laugh more often.
When someone says something to me that I feel is critical or rude, I’m going to go to my zen place and repeat, “Why are you still carrying her?” until I can laugh about it.