Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Have you ever wondered just how much you have lifted over your lifetime. My apologies for this analogy for anybody differently abled that may find this topic difficult or insulting, but today I’m thinking about that weight on our shoulders.
For example, one inch deep of snow weighs over ten pounds per square foot on average. A car is about six feet wide, and twenty feet long, or one hundred twenty square feet of area. To shovel one car area in a one-inch snowfall and you’ve shoveled a half ton of snow.
A half ton, for one car area worth of snow. Figure a driveway is about two and a half car widths, and three car lengths, and you’ve shoveled several tons of snow in one relatively light snowfall. Some years ago, I should mention here, I discovered that some people never really learned the formal definition of a ton, or a tonne, depending on your units. A tonne, that is to say a British or metric tonne, is a thousand kilograms. There are a little more than 2 kilograms in a pound, so an English ton is two thousand pounds. So by moving 2,000 pounds of snow, that’s one ton.
Over a lifetime, how many tons have we shoveled, or tons of boxes have we moved, or tons of books have we lifted, or tons of furniture have we shoved around our house? I’m looking around my new house at the relatively few remaining boxes (about a dozen) that I’ve moved in alone, and that I have yet to move around alone. If you’ve ever had professionals move a house (as I’ve done a few times in the past), they give you a manifest telling you exactly how many tons of belongings you own. It’s kind of an interesting experience, and quite eye-opening. And those tons of things you’ve lifted, shoved, moved have all rested on your spine.
They say that your spine compresses. Every day your spine compresses temporarily, and it re-expands as we sleep. What’s more, over time it compresses permanently, turning me, once nearly five foot ten, shorter, now about five foot eight. I find this compression a fascinating concept, although I have to admit, as I get older and my spine complains more I’m not particularly enjoying this fascinating process.
While the physical weight we lift is often shockingly large, there are less obvious weights that we also carry. Many of my friends know the weight of being a mother. I can’t really speak to this (or even being a father for that matter) as I am not one, but the physical cost to a woman’s body, the emotional cost of hormonal imbalances and changes, and the cost of worry.
There’s something that I can discuss. I do carry the weight of my friend’s worries and concerns with me. Just like shoveling a driveway is somehow easier when friends and neighbors stop by to help, shouldering one another’s emotional burdens also helps to lighten the load. I like when I feel like I can help my friends, but I’m also the kind of guy who tries to keep his own burdens to himself. I have to admit, these past few years my friends have taught me important lessons on sharing my burdens. Heck, I’m here and alive today because of their help, and I’m trying to be more open and vulnerable because of their support and love. They’ve taught me that just as I enjoy helping my friends out, my friends, too, enjoy being able to helping me out. So, I’m trying.
I think we all should try. Everybody has their weaknesses and strengths, and the more open we can be with one another about these, the more we can help shoulder the burdens of one another. Maybe our spines won’t compress quite as much.
A few more days remain in this difficult year. We have a new vaccination hitting the market, and a lot of work to do to move forward. I hope I won’t have to do it alone. With luck, I’ll have a little furball companion before too much longer, and there is plenty of work for me to do to turn this rather massive house for a single old creepy guy like me into a home. As it turns out, one of the courses for which I was contracted to teach has been canceled for low enrollment, so I’m starting with a depressed income, which is kind of depressing, but, on the other hand, I’ll have more time to pursue and accomplish other goals. I just need to find people to help me decompress my spine a little bit.