By Tim Porteus

SO THOSE who have children of school age are back to the term-time routine. I think for many parents who have childcare challenges,there can be a real sense of relief as the summer holidays end, and to some extent I feel that myself.

The pressure to fill six weeks with entertainment and activities, and go on holiday, can be immense, especially on a tight budget. For some children too, the holidays can be a difficult time and school can offer them a return to some familiar routine.

However, I remember the impending dread I felt when I was a child in the final days of the summer holidays. I hated the back to school adverts on TV as they heralded the end of free days playing on the rocks at the Pans shore, and of loosely defined bedtimes.

So I was glad that our youngest daughter Skye was looking forward to school as she enters P2. She met friends she hadn’t seen in weeks this morning and smiled as she said hello to George the lollipop man.

She seemed slightly anxious as she waited in line in a new place, but the friendly manner of her new teacher visibly lifted her mood and she went in with a smile, unknowingly tracing my childhood footsteps and those of her big sister.

But then as I walked home, I was suddenly overwhelmed with anxieties: money worries, work worries, deadlines, bills etc. It seemed as if during the holiday period I had consciously decided to put such thoughts aside, to just enjoy the family time. Now was the pay back, we had returned to ‘reality’.

But then I suddenly remembered a tale a fellow storyteller had told me many years ago. It just popped into my head and it spoke to me as I wandered back. And the truth in the story was the antidote I needed in that moment. And so I will share it with you in case you may one day find you need it:

There was once a weaver who was weighed down with worries. He had so many things to do, so many responsibilities he looked into the future with dread. His worries kept him awake at night, which of course made his worrying worse during the next day. It was a vicious cycle.

Then one day, he was sitting at his loom working and his worries got in the way. He couldn’t concentrate and he made mistake after mistake. He cursed and this was heard by an auld guidewife who happened to be passing by his window.

“Fir whit reason dae ye curse at yer loom son, is there nae joy in yer work?” she asked.

The weaver looked up, feeling ashamed: “I’m sair sorry fir ma words. It’s just that as I work I think aboot o’ ma troubles.”

The old woman nodded in understanding. She knew about troubles herself.

“Aye,” she said with an understanding nod, “troubles can fair get ye doon.”

Then she paused and thought for a moment. She could see in the weaver’s face that he was riddled with anxieties.

“Can I show ye something that will tak ye awa frae yer work fir only a few minutes?”

The weaver was happy to have a break so he left his loom and came outside.

“Dae ye hae a bucket?” asked the guidewife.

“A bucket?”

“Aye a bucket, tae put some water in,” she explained.

The weaver fetched his bucket, wondering what the old woman was going to do with it.

She took it to the well and filled it with a little water.

“Noo son, I dinnae ken if this will be tae heavy fir ye tae hold up.”

The weaver laughed: “O’ course it’s no too heavy, fir ye only put a wee drop o’ water in it.”

So the woman asked him to prove this by holding up the bucket with arms outstretched. The weaver had strong arms because of his work and held the bucket before him without any effort.

“Ah,” said the guidewife, “sae it’s nae tae heavy.”

“It isnae heavy at a’,” replied the weaver.

The old woman smiled: “In that case, keep haudin it afore ye like that fir 10 minutes.” He wondered why she was asking him to do this, and if she was just trying to make a fool of him. But he was also intrigued and knew her to be an honest old soul, and so he did as she asked.

After a few minutes of holding the bucket in front of him, it began to feel much heavier. After five minutes, his arms began to ache and soon they began to shake. The pain began to spread to his back as he desperately tried to keep the bucket in position.

“Is 10 minutes no over yet?” asked the weaver desperately.

“If the bucket is now tae heavy fir ye, put it doon son.”

He was reluctant to admit that the bucket was now too heavy to hold and so put it down.

“The water got heavier son, didn’t it?”

“The water wasnae heavier,” protested the weaver, “ye just made me hold the bucket for tae lang.”

“Sae the water did get heavier, no in itself, but for you!”

The weaver looked confused and the guidewife continued.

“Water can get heavier if ye haud it ower lang afore ye, even if it’s just a wee drop. Yer worries are like that water, son. I am sure that they are many but ye mak them much heavier if ye try tae haud them in yer thochts a’ the time.”

She smiled at him: “Try an put the bucket doon as often as ye can, if ye ken whit I mean. Dinnae mak it heavier than needs be. When ye need tae, haud it, but no a’ the time.”

“In fact,” she added while raising a pointed finger, “hauding it a’ the time gies ye pain and paralyses ye. Ye’ll hae nae ability left tae empty the bucket.”

And so the old woman wandered off, leaving her words with the weaver. He looked down at the bucket. He lifted it again and held it in front of him. It wasn’t as heavy now as before, but still had the same amount of water in it. She was right, water can get heavier if you hold it for longer, even though it’s the same weight.

He chuckled to himself and watched the woman as she waddled down the street.

“Thank ye!” he called out.

He returned to his loom. This time he whistled and sang as he worked. He enjoyed his creation and made no mistakes, for he had put his bucket of worries down for a while.

Later they would still be there, but they might seem lighter and easier to manage now that they had stopped paralysing him with anxiety.

And so that was the story. And as I arrived home, I realised that although I needed to deal with lots of things, I wasn’t going to give my worries more weight by holding them constantly in my thoughts.

It’s really important to put your bucket down every now and then, and that can make it easier to empty as well.