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.
Everybody has a story, everybody has baggage. The question is…Is your story finished? Or will you write another ending, another chapter or perhaps a whole new book?
I love the advice from Elizabeth Smart’s mom. She’s lucky to have her as mother.
Janie, she is a lucky girl… made me realize how different my life would have been if I had a mother like that. The school of hard knocks is a tough one to graduate from!
Thanks for reminding me of this lesson, Barbara!
This is one of those “gems of wisdom” that came to me later in life too, and once I “got it,” I was compelled to share it.
It did not occur to me, nor did anyone tell me, that I could “choose” what I wanted to think about. Thoughts come to mind…but it is my choice as to whether I “entertain” them or not. Thoughts come in…and I can actually choose to let them just “pass through.” It was also powerful to learn that at any point, I can “change my mind” if I am thinking about something that is causing me to feel awful.
When that understanding was combined with the idea that there were times when I was allowing people to “live rent free” in my brain…I had a POWERFUL AHA moment!
We can choose to “take people with us” OR leave them where they belong.
In counseling middle school students, when they were having difficulty at school with someone…I would explain that they needed to “leave that person at school”…don’t take them “home” with you at night. It is bad enough to have to “be around” someone who bugs you…but it your “choice” to kick them out of your brain when you no longer have to be in their actual presence.
It was wonderful to hear back from students who learned that lesson and were able to use it to help themselves. They were learning how to “drop their baggage.”
Sue, as always your well thought out and insightful comments are so appreciated. Sometimes when I’m troubled with something in the middle of the night, I visualize having this particular person with me in my car. We’re driving along and I turn to the person and say “I’m sorry you’re not welcome to go any further with me”. I pull the car over to the shoulder of the road, lean over the person and open the passenger door….and then I tell the offender to “get out”. As I drive away I can see the person getting smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror. I choose to be happy….not what’s on that imaginary radio!
Baggage, indeed! What is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves? I love the interviews and perspective of Elizabeth Smart. What a wise soul, and yes, courageous. Being defined by our choices and decisions is a mantra worth holding onto. Thanks for the peek into that mindset.
Barbara recently posted…Natural – not younger
I’ll bet we all could say we wish we knew we had that much power when we were young women! Better choices and decisions would have been helpful.
It’s taken me many years to leave some of my luggage at the curb. I love Elizabeth Smart’s Mom…such wisdom.
DarleneMAM recently posted…Football Food: Crispy Vegetable Pancakes
Sometimes we don’t realize how heavy that emotional baggage is until we quit carrying it around. Thanks for stopping by middleSage, Darlene!
It’s so empowering to think that we are in charge of writing the script of our lives, or revising the script if it no longer serves our needs. Thanks for writing this post and sharing some really important words and thoughts.
Sheryl recently posted…50 Things I Learned in 50-Plus Years
As a middle aged person I am sometimes surprised when a lesson comes from such unexpected sources…. Thanks for stopping by middleSage!
Love this post and thanks for the reminder. I think Elizabeth Smart is truly a very brave young woman and the way she has turned out after what she’s been through is really an inspiration to many of us.
Clairity recently posted…Chats on the Farmhouse Porch 114
Thanks for stopping by middleSage! Lessons come to us sometimes from people or place we wouldn’t expect.
Mo at Mocadeaux
I saw Elizabeth Smart on the Today Show. What an amazing and inspirational person she is. I will think of her when I am tempted to “hold onto baggage” in my life. Visiting from Sharefest.
Mo at Mocadeaux recently posted…This Old Lady Loved Bloggy Boot Camp Minneapolis
Watching her on the today show also reminded me, inspiration comes from unexpected places! That is as long as we’re open to seeing it! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!
It is so hard to let go of the baggage we gather up through our lives. It’s something I often struggle with’ trying not to let bad experiences of the past cloud or discolor the happy moments the present has and the future promises.
One of my best friends Hannah told me once that if she gets a bad baggage thought she envisions it as a train pulling into a station, she herself stands on the platform at the station and watches the train come in, acknowledges it coming into the station but she does not get on. She keeps envisioning herself standing on the platform until the train pulls out and leaves, and only then will she come back to her present moment.
I loved her advice and have used it a good few times myself.
Thanks for sharing this post, I love that we can be the authors of our own lives! Visiting from sharefest
Corlie recently posted…Patience and attitude
I LOVE that train visual! I have one that I use for the toxic people I may come in contact with! I’ll for sure be using this new visual exercise, and when I do I’ll smile and think of Corlie! Thanks for stopping by!
Leaving your emotional baggage behind | The Frog's Tale
[…] The Best Advice I Never Got: Be The Author Of Your Own Life. Drop Your Baggage. (middlesage.com) […]