Other people’s dirt

Sticky Goopy Crumbly
Icky Gritty Sloppy
In the toes
Under the nails
Rinse away
Fresh start

Jude is running down the hill, shrieking with intention, full of joy and the energy of a four year old, and determined to take on the gloriousness of the puddle before him.

He splashes in the mud puddle – uh, no, the six inch deep river of water in the ditch from last night’s rain – huge grin, soaking himself instantly and splattering mud from head to toe. The next second, he turns to his sister, arms outstretched, ready to engulf her in a mud-covered hug.

She screams and runs away.

Other. Peoples. Dirt.

Ayla didn’t want her brothers grit and grime all over her. She headed for the hills and avoided the entire fiasco.

Smart girl.

We all have dirt. We call it different things. Baggage. Pent up emotions. Deep dark secrets. The stuff from our past. The feelings, problems, challenges, and frustrations of the present.

It’s perfectly normal to share stories about our dirt. To listen to each other and be supportive of one another on this road of life.

This sharing and even claiming of our dirt, is a fabulous thing. We can cheer each other on as we work our way through the muck and get excited for one another when the dirt gets washed away.

But something else can happen too, when we are exposed to another person’s dirt.

We can give them a big, muddy hug and get their dirt mixed in with our own.

When this happens we might cross the line from being a supportive and encouraging friend, sibling, or even partner, and start to bear the burden of another person.

Other people’s dirt, when blended in with our own, can make the dirty load we carry even heavier.

When mud dries and forms a seal or case, all the dirt is kept in, held close, and stiffens up. Movement is prevented. That which is encased in mud fails to move forward.

There is a difference between supporting another person, acknowledging her dirt, and taking it on as if it’s your own.

Life is long, rich, and full of enough love to cheer each other on. Life is too short to take on the emotional burden of the problems of others. Or to give your own away.

Sympathize with others. Support causes that strike a chord with you and that you think will make the world a better place by supporting. You can honor the weight of a situation or the size of someone else’s dirt pile without grabbing your own wheelbarrow and filling up your well with their dirt.

Fair is fair too. Expect other’s to support you, but don’t expect them to bear the burden of your dirt. It’s up to you to wash away the mud that has crusted over. Use it to exfoliate your skin, washing it away and leaving tender, softness behind.

If you let it, other people’s dirt can keep you from your own joy.

You have a right to joy. So do the people you meet on an everyday basis (“these are the people in your neighborhood…”), and we can treat each other with love and kindness, nurturing our own joy and giving each other the space we need to clean up our own dirt.

When you honor your own dirt and someone else’s, but avoid taking the burden of their dirt, you do them and yourself a service. You serve them with love and support and give them the gift of solving their own problems, learning their own lessons, and building their own destiny. You serve yourself by giving your own dirt the attention it deserves, loving and solving your own problems, and building your own destiny.

We’re all in this together…and that means watching each other grow, watering with love and sprinkling with sunshine. It also means keeping some of that self-love Miracle Gro for yourself, just to take care of YOU.

Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:
Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit saramarchessault.com.

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