Use your imagination as I tell you a story. First, I want you to picture in your mind a huge pile of all different types and sizes of bags. Rolling suitcases, duffle bags, backpacks, cosmetic bags. Zippered, buttoned, latched. In your mind, see the stack. The stack is BIG.
Second, when you read the story, every time you see the word BAG, imagine the character picking up one of those bags from your pile and carrying it. Throughout the tale, our characters DO NOT put bags down, but only pick them up.
Here we go…
I’d like to introduce you to two friends of mine. Celia and Betty.
As a young child, Celia was very popular. She was pretty and funny. Now Betty, on the other hand, was not very well liked. Several of the other kids made fun of the way she ran on the playground and the boys pulled her long hair and called her names (BAG).
Celia had always wanted to take piano lessons, but her father refused to allow her to do so (BAG). Betty loved to read, she sat for hours absorbed in good books. Unfortunately, her brother and his friends often teased her about being a bookworm and a loser (BAG).
When Celia was 16, she was voted in as the prom queen, but her boyfriend, the star quarterback, secretly started dating somebody else. Celia was the last to find out (BAG). In high school, Betty still ran funny in gym class and was never invited to go to any school dances nor to her senior prom (BAG).
Celia’s parents divorced when she was 17 (BAG). When Betty was 19, she had an argument with her father a few hours before he died unexpectedly (BAG).
Celia was unable to finish college because she became pregnant and had to drop out of school to raise her son (BAG). At 23, Betty graduated from college and found a job right away. However, her boss had a problem with anger management and Betty often was yelled at in front of her coworkers (BAG).
Celia thought she found Mr. Right and married him. He was actually Mr. Wrong and they were soon divorced (BAG). Betty stayed with her same employer for years, but never made any friends (BAG) and never felt included (BAG). And, her boss still yelled at her (BAG).
Celia had problems with her neighbors (BAG). She found solace in painting but began to lose her eyesight (BAG). She struggled with her teenage son (BAG). Betty’s mother was critical of her single lifestyle (BAG) and resented that she had no grandchildren (BAG).
And, life goes on for Celia and Betty.
When asked how she feels, Celia says, “Exhausted and emotionally drained.”
And, Betty? “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Throughout their lives, Celia and Betty experienced many disappointments, as we ALL do. Think about the types of things we encounter. Some good, positive instances. And, also some difficult, negative situations. Unfortunately, often our focus is more on the aversive ones, such as hurtful comments, the exclusion from a group of neighbors or coworkers, the assumption of non-existent support or encouragement.
How we handle those thorny experiences makes a statement on how we choose to live our lives.
Now, what is the deal with Celia and Betty and all this baggage they carry?
These bags are representative of what can happen with painful situations.
Some people get angry, others are in a state of denial, some simply stuff the tormenting emotions inside themselves. Regardless of the preferred method, if we cannot let these things go (put these bags down), then we become weary, overburdened, and burned-out. Not to mention resentful and bitter.
Celia said she was exhausted and emotionally drained. Have you ever felt that way? Are you feeling that way now?
When we cling to our baggage, we just plain get tired. No one wants to go through a lifetime holding on tightly to all the muck life doles out, although sometimes people do just that. It can block our ability to see straight and to look at new possibilities. To continue on our life journey with gratitude and peace. Everything gets plugged up, slowed down, and we can become blinded to our future dreams and aspirations.
Sometimes the negative experiences actually DO outnumber the positive ones, but we still have a choice as to where to keep our focus.
What can we do? It depends on the situation and the person. Professional psychologists and counselors remain busy helping people deal with lingering emotional pain. From my life experience, here are a few suggestions to loosen your grip on those bags.
Consider how best to get rid of the baggage we carry. Then, take some intentional and courageous actions.
Forgive those that have hurt us. People make mistakes. They say and do things that injure others, even those they love. This also includes forgiving yourself.
Have conversations with those with whom we need to finish things. Complete those dangling and annoying conversations. Having closure with those that have wronged us or to whom we have wronged is certainly not always easy, but often is just what is needed. Even if we do not attain agreement, we have done our part, which is the only thing under our control.
Just let things go. Ask ourself, “Why on earth am I still clinging to a damaging comment made by my college professor? Or by the actions of insensitive coworkers that I don’t even work with anymore? Or by the injurious gossip being circulated about me?” Learning to put things into their proper perspective is important. Besides, our perception is our own reality, anyway.
If you think about it, most disappointments in life come from the failure of OUR expectations. Ones we have about family, jobs, coworkers, friends, neighbors, lifestyle, ourselves. When those expectations are not met, we can become disenchanted and disillusioned.
But, we DO have the capacity to make choices about how we react to those disappointments. Do we continue to be weighted down with a myriad of emotional baggage? Are we holding tightly to just one last piece? Can we trust ourselves to finally put it all down?
Consider the baggage you can drop in order to feel freer and lighter and to live your life with more joy, happiness, and contentment. It’s about recognizing, taking action, then choosing where to spend your finite precious moments.
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