“People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Grim Grotto
The suitcase is huge. Hard-shelled, pink and white polka dots, it is easy to identify when it comes down the conveyor belt. Lots of dirt and marks on the outside, but it does a good job of protecting its contents. We yank it from the line and quickly turn to walk out into the mix of people. No one can see what is within, only the beaten up shell outside. I wonder what they think. I’ve never had a matching set of luggage, I have had lots of separate pieces, and that has worked fine for me. When we travel by car instead of plane, there is nothing matched about anything we take into the hotel, unless we happen to have a few paper bags from the same grocery. It’s all fine, really, until I’m on the elevator with the matching luggage lady, and then our differences seem so obvious. Things aren’t always as they seem, though, are they? Life is not black and white, and people are not wicked or noble.
If I were to go back to school at this point in life and retake my literature and psychology classes, I would have clever insights to offer to the discussions when asked to explain the underlying meanings of poems and personalities. If I were to revisit the halls of UT and Austin Peay, I might be a star pupil with appropriately twisted interpretations for my professors, and it’s all thanks to my luggage. No, not my luggage, my baggage. At 18, I only needed a small piece of Samsonite. At almost 50, I have overnight bags, weekender bags, messenger bags and full fledged suitcases. We each pick up a lot of baggage, adding to the confusion and conflict in our lives. “Baggage” is what we carry with us, full of our life experiences, that weighs us down and keeps us from enjoying life. When I first went out with the man I would eventually marry, I laid the truth on the table, “I have a lot of baggage,” I said. I was already full of life experiences that had me feeling much older than my normally naive 22 years would have appeared. I thought he deserved the chance to walk away early in the game. He chose to stay and help me unpack my bags little by little over the next 26 years. I’ve worked pretty hard to not repack those bags, no matter how tempting at times. Like that chef’s salad, I still have some good and bad ingredients, but I’ve learned how to remove the items whose flavor is unpleasant.
Norman Vincent Peale said “Change your thoughts, and you change the world.” Are you willing to unpack the thoughts that have been following you? Look into your tattered suitcase. What do you see?
- A father who belittled you for not being his picture of the good son
- A mother who was jealous of your success and chose to tell you how unsuccessful you were in her eyes
- Kids who made fun of the only clothes your family could afford to buy you
- The dog bite that continues to haunt you and hold you back from experiencing the love of a pet
- The teacher who made fun of you in front of the class
- The boss who never gave you the promotion despite your best efforts
- The spouse who controlled your every move
- The neighbor who had fancier trappings than you
Whatever it is, it is weighing you down and limiting you in life. Sometimes, I think we hang on to problems because we feel some strange sense of comfort in the known, but the unknown just might be better!
Southwest Airlines says “Carry-on Items: 1 bag + 1 small personal item are free; Checked Items: First and second bags are free,” They will carry the heavy load for you, while you are free to bring something smaller and lighter.
What will you bring? If I leave the heaviness of abuse, fear, sadness, and humiliation out of the bag, I will have room for health, joy, fun, and success. As I have learned to leave behind the things that smothered my heart and stopped up my head, I have discovered that I can handle adversity much more easily and love people, including myself, much more freely.
Unpack your bags and stop trying to bring all of your past along with you. You might need some help. Ask for it. Whether you are eight or eighty, it’s neither too soon nor too late to celebrate the freedom that awaits you when you choose to travel lightly. Enjoy seeing the sights on your journey through life; worry less about the baggage you thought you might need . While you are taking care of yourself, remember that other folks have baggage, too. They are neither wicked or noble, just living in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict. Maybe you can even help them unpack and change the world!