Today finds me writing my blog not from my home state of California…but from my original home state of New York.
How do I know I’m in the Empire State? The stores are filled with this…
…and the guys wear hats like this (and smile like this)…
The thing that brought me to the east coast this time? A visit with family and friends.
Trips back home can be tricky. For me, there’s something about being back in the town where I went to grade school (and wasn’t especially popular in it), where I waited tables (and wasn’t especially great at it) and where I began/ended relationships (and wasn’t especially mature about it) that brings a lot of baggage.
I decided that, this time, things would be different…that I would lighten my emotional load…approaching the trip without worrying that I’d turn right back into the 12-year-old Deirdre who used to live here.
I decided to arrive with the history, but without the baggage.
Many, many of us deal with baggage at one point or another…baggage from former relationships, from former jobs…from projects we didn’t finish, words we didn’t say, countless scenarios involving countless family members
What, you may be wondering, is the difference between history and baggage?
…is when we look back at the events of the past with respect and gratitude. Even the tough stuff is honored for the lessons it brought us.
With history, the past is…history. It’s the past and we use it to be even better in our present and our future.
…is when we look back at the events of the past and feel the same emotions that we had when we went through them before. We continue to feel angry or sad about past events and relationships. It’s painful.
With baggage, the past is…still there, hanging out in the present. And, if we don’t get over it, it’ll still be there, looming in the future.
So how can honor our history and lose the baggage that seems to so easily come with it?
I won’t pretend to have all the answers. However, having worked through this process somewhat, I believe I can offer a few thoughts on the topic.
Let’s have a go, shall we?
#1: Say what needs to be said…but be realistic
One of the best ways to get rid of baggage is to get it off your chest…to tell those involved how you feel about what happened, doing so in a way that’s honest and forthright, using words that are chosen very, very carefully.
The thing to know is that you get to choose what you say, but you don’t get to choose how others react. So don’t go into it expecting a specific response. Just because you’re ready to talk it through doesn’t mean others will be, so sometimes just saying your peace out loud is the best you can hope for.
Also, know that some people are bound and determined to hold onto their baggage, which means approaching them might lead to even more angst. You might avoid these people altogether, instead finding a way to work it out on your own (e.g. write the letter that you throw out, scream at their photo, talk it through with someone you trust)
#2: Put it in perspective
We all have a lens through which we view the past, and it’s amazing how our stories about a certain situation will differ so much from someone else’s.
Know that your experience is just that…your experience. It’s remembered through your life lens, colored by your life view. Others might have experienced it differently or forgotten it completely.
Make sure you’re viewing your past from the strong place of the present, and not from the viewpoint of the person you used to be. Try to be objective, focusing on what’s important to you now.
In the end, you might even find the baggage isn’t all that important anymore.
#3: Acknowledge your lack of a time machine
Getting rid of baggage does not mean going back to the past and changing it. Not possible.
This means accepting the past completely, including your own mistakes and choices. Don’t begin sentences about the past with “I just wish I had/could have/would have…”. You didn’t, can’t and won’t. Because it’s over.
The best thing you can do is figure out how to use it all to create a better today and tomorrow…then to take action, and move on.
That’s what I had to do…and I’m relieved to say my own load was lighted as a result.
Which left lots of time to enjoy all the good stuff with family…and to get into the New York spirit myself.
Lighten your real load. Learn from your history…get rid of the baggage.
Accept that you can’t change the past, but you can address it and move on.
So address it, and move on.
And feel how much lighter life can be without it.
Now, go do good…and do it well.
PS: Let’s go Mets!!