Friday, June 20, 2014

Emotional Wardrobe

This evening let us gather around the (virtual) fire and discuss emotional baggage. This two worded expression just happens to irk the crap out of me. Not  just because of the insensitive way it is used but because people are ashamed by it. This phrase gets tossed around in such a negative way, as if the people hurling it at others don't have any issues of their own, as if they themselves have no residual emotions left behind from their childhood or the traumatic episode we call our teenage years, as if they have escaped relationships without acquiring any issues or sentimental scars.

People talk about emotional baggage as if it is a hindrance, an embarrassment, something to be ashamed of. Everyone talks about how we have to let go and overcome the past or else we will be held back by it. This is a preposterous notion to me. Take it from me, no matter how well you let go of something, it always comes back to you. Usually when you least expect it, like at work when you're cleaning the lint out of the dryer trap. Nothing is gone forever. Not even when you spend a sexless year working through your issues. The feelings and memories are always under the surface, just existing there.

And it makes me think, is not our emotional baggage something we should be proud of? To say, "This is what I've been through, and I'm still here, surviving. Look at all I have overcome. It's all packed into these metaphorical bags."

Like the good times in our lives, we carry the bad as well, from this relationship to the next, from one part of our lives to another. Why should we let either of them go? These are our memories, our experiences, the things that have moulded and shaped us, turned us into the creatures we are. We act as if the sad times, the hurtful moments are a pain to keep with us, but I cherish them just the same as the lovely ones. I have learned from them. Grown from them. And I keep them with me, not because I can't let them go, but because they aren't holding me back. They are a part of me.

Anyone who whispers the term 'emotional baggage' behind their hand as if it is a dirty thing is misunderstanding what exactly comprises the baggage. Some people don't understand what it means to be proud of the struggles you've been through. Once you embrace the baggage it can become your shield. It can protect you from future hurts. And it will teach you to wear your scars like armour. To hold your head up high and understand that where you came from and what you've gone through doesn't have to dictate where you are going or who you will become.

We call it baggage because it supposedly weighs us down, but the past doesn't have to be so heavy. Instead of lugging it around, why don't we unpack it instead? We can fill up our hearts with it and, when need be, we can open the doors to the emotional wardrobe and pull out a moment to examine, to remember what we leaned from it, to reflect on the life we have lived, then hang it back up. We can close the door and go about our lives, no longer pulling the baggage behind us, but carrying it inside us, where it can be reflected on as a lesson, instead of dragged around like dead weight we want to cut away.  

I firmly believe you can't let your past dictate your future, but I also don't think you can move forward without confronting your past. Packing your bad memories up and trying to hide them will only cause you to stumble. It's hard dragging something so cumbersome behind you, it's a strain on the heart and the head, not to mention the legs. Eventually, we have to realize we are who we are because of what we have been through. To deny the past, to try to forget it, or ignore it will only cause it to be harder to deal with. Maybe it's time to unpack those bags and put those experiences away in the emotional wardrobe, where they can change from a burden to a blessing. 

1 comment:

A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

I love the movie Rent, and one of my favorite songs has these lines in it:

"I'm not lying. No one's perfect. I have baggage."

"Life's too short, babe. Time is flying. I'm looking for baggage that goes with mine."

As you said, everyone has things in their life that have affected them. Finding someone who understands you and you understand them is one of the best things about getting into a relationship, whether romantic or platonic.