Maybe someone else will bring stamps

I had that dream again! The one where you’re being arrested or deported or evacuated, and you’re forced to pack up everything for yourself and a bunch of other people to survive, and you only have a few minutes to do it, and you only have a tiny little suitcase, and you have no way of knowing what you’ll actually need, and you know you’re making horrible choices, but you just don’t have the time to do it right. Do you have this dream? I don’t have it routinely like I used to, but it still comes around every once in a while.

But something new happened in my dream last night. Right in the middle of the anguished panic of stuffing a mishmash of precious and useless belongings into a too-small suitcase, I was thinking frantically, “Stamps? Should I bring stamps? We may need them!” And then I thought, “Maybe someone else will bring stamps.”

And that was it. I still had to do my best, and the rest of the dream was very unpleasant, but at least it occurred to me that not everything was riding on my efforts alone. My therapist will be glad to hear this. He’s only reminded me about eleven times that this is so. Maybe you need to hear it, too. 

It’s not always true. Sometimes it’s really the case that, if you don’t do the thing, then the thing won’t get done, and maybe it’s a very important thing that absolutely must get done. Sometimes life is just like this, and it stinks, but there’s nothing that can be done about it; or sometimes, life is like this because other people are terrible, and they’re letting all the burden fall on you because they know they can get away with it. Good old you, always doing thing.

But sometimes, someone else really will pack stamps. Or maybe you can get stamps when you get there; or maybe you won’t really need stamps after all. Or maybe you will, and someone else can arrange for it to happen. I’m trying to get in the habit of asking myself, especially when I’m feeling overburdened and rushed and pushed into things unwillingly: Who is putting this burden on me? Who is pushing me? What will happen if I step away and let the burden fall?

It’s almost shocking to see just how often someone else is perfectly capable of doing the thing that I thought I alone could do. Or sometimes someone else is already quietly doing it, and I didn’t even notice, because I was so self-importantly accomplishing things. Or sometimes no one else will do the thing if I don’t, but it doesn’t really matter as much as I thought it did. My busyness is very often not as important as I think it is. Sometimes, I’m chagrined to realize, the main purpose of my busyness is not to accomplish things at all, but to make sure people know I’m important. Ick.

So, there’s a secondary revelation here, not as icky, but harder to internalize: I am important, but not because of all the things I can accomplish. I’m important when I’m in the background, and when I’m resting. Check it out: I’m even important when I screw up and pack the wrong thing and everybody suffers because of the dreadful lack of packed stamps. My actions and choices are meaningful, but they are not a test of my inherent worth. 

That’s it. That’s the dream. I needed to hear this. Maybe you did, too!

Photo by: Senior Airman Alexandre MontesReleased 



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5 thoughts on “Maybe someone else will bring stamps”

  1. Thanks. I’m in a part of the world fairly unaffected by covid so far. But this exact situation happened to me today, I was tied in knots about doing an important but extremely inconvenient errand but then when I (full of embarrassment and oh I’m so sorry to be a nuisance blah blah blah) asked someone else they did it and it all worked out and nobody freaked out apart from me until I was convinced nothing bad had happened from me specifically not doing the task.

  2. To say that I’m feeling fragile and overwhelmed would be an understatement. The number of times I’ve been near tears lately (as someone who rarely cries) is astonishing. Work stress has been brutal. Parenting is so hard right now. And on top of it all, I worry that my kids are picking up on my panic, especially as my 11-year-old had her own pandemic-related meltdown today. Your words today helped. This is not mine to carry alone. Maybe someone else will bring stamps. Thank you.

    1. Jess, I’m sorry that you’re feeling so distressed. I realize that you may not be a Christian, or a woman of any faith, but the 2nd thing that popped into my mind as I read your comment was a podcast I recently heard that has really helped me. It might help you, and I want to offer it to you as a way of reaching out, even though we’ve never met. Here’s the link:

      The 1st thing that came to mind was “I’ve related hard times on ‘blog posts, and perfect strangers said they’d pray for me — ohh! Right!” So here’s prayers for you. 🙏

  3. Normally this would be really good advice. But right now, seeing how this pandemic is playing out, I just don’t have a lot of confidence in other people (politicians, citizens and everything in between) to do the right thing. Sorry to be negative. I’m just feeling really discouraged right now.

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