The Soul’s Emergency Backpack


An emergency backpack holds enough essentials items for three days. They recommend water, cans of food, swiss army knife, flashlight, rope, batteries stored in a waterproof container. When the emergency strikes, grab it and go; it will keep you alive for three days.

I need one of these inside my head.

Getting sick is Mother Nature’s way of forcing us to distinguish between essentials and extras. It gets really easy, then, to see clearly what we don’t need to do. When I’m sick, the world gets small and manageable. I only do the things I feel physically strong enough to do and let the rest go. If I’m too sick to check email, I don’t — I don’t feel guilty about it. Many people have noted that sickness is life’s way of telling us we are working too hard and need to slow down the pace, so the best response to sickness is to listen and obey.

It’s not so easy to slow down in healthy times.

If you’re a mother, chances are you overload your daily life. It’s probable that the day ends before you finish your chores, and that you’ve started writing tomorrow’s to-do list today. “I need to slow down” or “I need to change something” are my unintentional mantras.

Mama’s Emergency Backpack

There has to be a way to create an emergency backpack for occasional use when we feel this way. Just three days’ worth of essentials. What can I let go of for three days? Or, maybe we should think of it like Marie Kondo: what deserves to go into the backpack? How can I immediately make my life very small without forgetting to pack water?

All of our emergency backpacks will need to include some form of childcare, however minimal we can get away with. I need to make sure my kids get up and ready for camp, drive them there, pick them up, feed them and put them to sleep. What’s next? Work? Focus on the minimum you need to do to not get noticed or called out. Remember, this is an emergency of sorts. We shouldn’t wait to get sick to slow ourselves down.

Putting on this emergency backpack is like putting ourselves in power-saver mode: only use when necessary.

What can you take a break from to feel like your life is more manageable? For me, when I get a mini-detox from the internet, I immediately feel better. Reading puts me in a happy place because it feels like a healthy escape. Reading’s like eating a banana. It’s full of sugar but you’re still eating fruit.

Just like everyone’s physical emergency backpack will look a little different, so will our emotional backpacks.

souls-emergency-backpack-mamaHere’s what I’ve come up with for mine:

In my backpack

  • Kids
  • Reading
  • Talking to friends
  • Minimal work
  • Journaling, meditating or taking time to be quiet

Not in my backpack

  • Email
  • Mindless Internet
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • TV
  • Extras: hobbies, shopping, planning, etc.

Just like real emergency backpacks, over time we might need to swap out expired cans for new ones, but the idea remains the same: it is good to make life very small sometimes and see just what we can live on.

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Mariana loves sandwiches best, although going 95% vegan two years ago means having traded in ham and swiss for eggplant and roasted red pepper. Her boys, Santiago (5) and Sebastian (3), agree that sliced bread is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The boys are native Spanish speakers despite the fact that neither of their parents is, which has made raising them in Spanish a labor of love. Her commitment to raising bilingual children was made possible by being a first-generation Chilean-American born and raised in New York City, and by having spent two pre-kid years living abroad in Mexico City and Salamanca, Spain. Mariana moved to the RGV in 2010 and never wants to live anywhere else. While the kids are at school, Mariana is a full-time Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UTRGV. She has written for the New York Times, Womankind Magazine, and Yahoo Parenting.


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