Brick By Brick

Imagine three bricks, placed end-to-end on a table.

You could pick up all three bricks without touching the middle one. All you have to do is hold onto the two on the ends, and press them inward against the middle one. As long as you’re applying enough pressure, you can pick up all three bricks.

In fact, you could do this with more than 3! Assuming your arms are long enough and you’re strong enough, you could put 2, 3, maybe 4 bricks in the middle and still pick up the whole line by just pressing inward on the outermost two.

The more bricks you have, the more pressure is required, of course.

So here you are holding like six bricks total, straining and sweating, supporting all this weight with your outstretched arms and keeping everything stable only through maintaining a constant application of intense pressure.

And then someone comes along and tells you to relax. That you’re working too hard, that you should just breathe a little. Maybe meditate. They see the look on your face and think “this person is going to give themselves a heart attack, they need to slow down a little.” And with all the best intentions, they try to get you to just de-stress a little.

BANG! CRASH! SMASH!

The whole thing comes down. That was load-bearing stress. It was keeping the whole system up. Your mental and emotional stability was being held in check like liquid oxygen, only because of strong external pressure. There was nothing under those bricks – as soon as constant pressure wasn’t being applied to them, nothing was keeping them in the air.

So if this is you, and you’re the one in the position, you really have three choices:

  1. Just… let the bricks crash? That looks like different things to different people depending on how this analogy is working for you, but it’s probably never good. It probably means, at a minimum, a mental breakdown.
  2. Keep the pressure up forever. You can do it, right? I mean, it’s not really forever. It’s like 40 or 50 years, tops.
  3. Find something to put under those bricks so you can ease up on the pressure gradually and nothing will collapse.

Number 3 sounds like the best option, right? Here’s the thing – imagine you really were physically holding the bricks like I described above. Now imagine that while supporting this, someone asked you to go look around for a table or something to put them down on. You have to suddenly concentrate on yet another task, you have to move around while still maintaining the balance, you have to risk bumping into stuff. In the short term, #3 might actually be much harder than #2.

So lots of people just default down to #1.

The real solution is no longer available. The real solution is #0: “Don’t pick up all those bricks like that to begin with, idiot. What did you think would happen?”

If you have to move bricks, that’s the real advice. Pick them up one, maybe two at a time, and then find someplace to put them down. Someplace stable, and then you can go get some more and put them next to the first couple. And then you could build a whole house or something, brick by brick.

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