Baggage Claim

emotional-baggageWe all have baggage, don’t we? But it’s not like luggage that we tag and hope gets to the same destination that we do. Our baggage is something we can’t help but carry along with us, whether we want to or not, and it stays with us. What we choose to do about that baggage is up to us, though, if we let it drag us down, or if we learn from it and become better about not accumulating more baggage.

I know I personally have a lot of baggage myself, and most of it has a lot to do with how I see myself today. When I was younger I tended to blame pretty much everyone else in my life for my opinions of myself. They told me I was a certain way and I internalized that, thinking it was true and creating my own baggage in the process. I was a nerd. I was too short. I was awkward around others. I was, in most respects, a basket case. Because I chose to believe others.

There was an episode of How I Met Your Mother that treated this idea in a wonderful way, by showing people with actual labeled baggage that they were physically carrying with them. How great would that be? When we first met someone we could see that they have 10 bags they’re struggling to carry, and we can walk the other way. Right? Of course if that were the case, I probably wouldn’t be married now.

baggageYou see, when we first start out in a relationship it’s the human way to dole out those pieces of baggage bit by bit, over a course of time. It’s called “getting to know each other.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. In this way the other person is able to digest what we’ve told them one at a time instead of getting bombarded with it all at the same time. That’s the only reason they don’t run screaming away from us when we first meet, and why we advance to a second, third, and umpteenth date.

But think about it. One of the biggest issues we have in relationships is that we don’t ever divulge all of the baggage. I mean, isn’t there some HUGE bag in your past that is so heavy you have to wheel it in just to be able to look at it? Too many people think that whatever that major baggage is, it would be the deal breaker, so they leave it packed up in their closets, they think never to see the light  of day.

These things have a way of showing up eventually, though, and then destroying our relationships because they were shoved into the closet, not because of their magnitude in the first place. It’s like when your kid lies about getting in trouble at school. We don’t like that the kid got into trouble, but lying about it makes it even worse and ruins trust that has been built up. Now that trust has to be rebuilt, if it can be at all. That’s what not revealing baggage can do to us.

So, what do we do about it? If you’ve just stated dating someone you are already as nervous as you possibly can be. It’s like coming up in front of a firing squad. Sure, it’s a firing squad you want to eventually have sex with, but it’s still a firing squad nonetheless. The tension can be overwhelming. But then she smiles at you and you relax. You tell her one of the issues you’ve been dealing with and she reciprocates. You feel a closeness that you worry will go away if you go “too far,” so you shelve the major baggage and hope to god she doesn’t find out.

emotional-baggageHow can that possibly be good for a relationship, even if she never finds out? You still have to deal with the deception, keeping that baggage hidden for …ever. It’s so much better to just come out with it. If she can’t deal with it then you weren’t meant to be together in the first place and you can move on to finding someone who can handle all of what makes you YOU. Because, believe it or not, that baggage is just as much as a part of you as your winning smile and your hand-eye coordination.

The key is to learn from that baggage. If you were left at the altar, analyze why that happened. Was it you, was it the other person, or was it a combination of the two. If you cheated on your ex, why did it happen? What can you do to make sure it doesn’t happen in any future relationships. The great part of baggage is that it can be used as a learning experience. So, when you share it with someone you don’t just talk about what happened, and where it came from. You talk about how you’ve learned from it and why it wouldn’t happen again.

And I’ll admit, the baggage I’ve accumulated throughout my lifetime so far is pretty substantial, but I can honestly say that every single one of those bags has made me a better person through laying them out there and dealing with them.

Sam

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