This month here on middleSage our topic of choice is “The Best Advice I Never Got”. We’re talking about the lessons we learned later in life, lessons that would have saved us a whole lot of heartache had we learned them earlier. In the spirit of “I wish I knew then what I know now”!
Today I’m talking about Moving On & Losing Your Emotional Baggage.
Emotional baggage isn’t a term we’re unfamiliar with. It seems it’s part of our DNA. Even if you think you’re not carrying any emotional baggage, you probably are and just don’t realize it. The best description I’ve seen for emotional baggage is this;
“History is what has happened in our lives. Baggage is how we feel about it. Your psychological perspective on your past determines, to a great extent, your personal health and vitality.” – Dr. Les Parrott and Dr. Neil Clark Warren
How many times have you felt stuck because of the way you felt about a person, a situation, a place, or a memory? Whatever the reason, it took place in the past, yet today you still carry it around with you. By the time you hit middle age you’ve got a whole lot of memories…good and bad to contend with.
From Science is Madness:
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”
It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!
I was watching the interview with Elizabeth Smart on the Today Show last week. What a poised, warm hearted young woman. It’s especially startling to see how centered this young woman is when you know she’s been through hell and back after being kidnapped, raped and tortured for months at the young age of 14. If anyone deserves to be biter, angry and closed off it would be her. She tells her story, to help others. The one word I can come up with is Courage.
After she arrived home, Smart said her mom gave her the best piece of advice she’s ever received.
“My mom said, ‘Elizabeth, what this man has done to you is terrible, and there aren’t words to describe how wicked and evil he is…but the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy. Move forward and follow your dreams and do exactly what you want to do. You may never feel like justice has been served, but you don’t need to worry about that because in the end, God is our ultimate judge, and he will make up every pain and every suffering that you’ve gone through. Those who don’t receive their just reward here will certainly receive it in the next life, so you don’t have a reason to hold on to that.’”
“If you relive it, you’re only allowing him to steal more of your life away from you,” she continued. “That’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given, and I have tried to live it every single day.”
“We always have a choice to move forward, to make a difference,” Smart said. “I like to think that we’re not defined by what happens to us…because so many times they’re beyond our control. I like to think that we’re defined by our choices and our decisions.”
I think this philosophy is the key to our happiness! We are the writers of our own story, nobody else but us gets to determine the plot that is our life. Since we’re the writers of our own story, the task falls to us to either overcome whatever happened in our past to allow us to carry that baggage around or continue to schlep the heaviness that is made up of our worst memories.
For all my sisters, who are the daughters of narcissistic mothers: Don’t let your narcissistic mother rob you of one more day. Resolve to move on and create the life you’ve dreamed about. You’re the author of your own life…. If it means watching the narcissistic mother disappear in the rear view mirror of your car. Do it.
For all my sisters that have been through hellish divorces: Thank god the beast is no longer in your life! You learned a lot coming through both a bad marriage and a hellish divorce. Use that knowledge to create a new story. Focus on the joy of possibilities in your life and make the necessary changes to begin your new chapter.
For all my sisters that are still gnashing over the stress of that unfulfilling job you’re stuck in. The writing is on the wall. What do you want? What environment do you dream of working in? Nothing will change unless you change first. Either begin looking for that new environment or begin to change the one you’re in. Don’t be fooled at thinking one person can’t make a difference. It’s your reality, change it.
For all my sisters that have gone through financial hardship and experienced great loss. It’s a change of lifestyle, you’ve done nothing wrong and will continue to have joy in your life. Just because you don’t have what you think you should have doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. Focus on the good in your life and find a new path to gratitude.
I’ve gone through all these things, too. They are behind me. I worked hard to keep them behind me and figure out a way to stop compounding and carrying each person, situation or memory for the journey that lies in front of me.