by Gina B.
I have a confession to make -- I'm a chronic overpacker. The only thing that keeps me from going completely overboard with dresses and shoes is luggage weight restrictions. I've been forced to learn the art of packing light. In fact, I've decided to pack my emotional baggage with the same regulations used during air travel.
While packing for a recent trip, I tried to be selective about the contents of my bags. After toiling over important decisions -- like whether I needed a pair of shoes for every outfit -- I opted to pack as light as possible, carrying only the bare necessities.
It was a good plan. My bag was lighter. Although I eliminated a lot of items that I would have normally crammed in, I didn't miss anything left behind.
If only we could apply the same concept to relationships.
Personally, I'm at a disadvantage. My memory gets in the way when it comes to emotional baggage. I don’t intend to overpack but I've been cursed with an eidetic memory, which means that I remember every single thing, and my reflections flood back as though I’m living through them all over again. Not fun.
However, those of you who are fortunate enough not to have freakishly annoying memories can be more selective about the baggage that you carry. Everyone has a degree of emotional baggage, but some of us are inefficient over-packers who fill our emotional footlockers with things that will never help us, and insist on lugging feelings and experiences that we can't -- or refuse to -- get over.
For example, we've all heard (or spoken) the following phrases:
- "I just can't get past . . . "
- "If I could just get closure on . . ."
- "I will never forget the pain of . . ."
- "I wish I knew why he . . . "
- "Every time I think about _____, it makes me angry."
These, and other harmful phrases are the true symptoms of baggage. They are thoughts that only serve to weigh us down, and keep us from moving toward happy, healthy relationships.
I'm not suggesting that the past should be erased, but at some point baggage should transcend from a collection of painful memories to a handy bag of tricks or tools to help successfully navigate future relationships. If you wouldn't pack an evening gown for a rap concert, keep in mind that each memory stored in your emotional baggage reservoir should be useful and appropriate.
The first step is to take an honest look at your experiences, accurately determine what went wrong and how you might have contributed to the problems. Next, figure out what you learned, and how you can change your behavior in the future.
For example, if you dated a man for a year before realizing that he was married, don't feel sorry for yourself and wallow in the deception. Think of the warning signs that you might have overlooked, document them, and file them in your trick bag (formerly known as baggage).
If your ex left you for someone else, don't spend several months/years/decades trying to figure out what went wrong. You'll never know for sure. Capture everything you liked about that relationship, pack those attributes in your trick bag, and go on a mission to find something even better.
Taken advantage of by a gold-digger? Don't let your baggage turn you into an evil penny-pincher. Equip your trick bag with an internal siren that screeches and hides your Black AmEx when it detects a money-grubber.
Packing light has its advantages. Retire your worn, ugly suitcase with its busted seams, remnants of duct tape and jagged wheels that have crumbled underneath the weight of unnecessary items. In its place, carry a sleak leather bag that's big enough for the essentials, but not so big that it slows you down. If you get a larger bag, it will only be because you have more experience -- and more tricks!