Thursday, May 24, 2012

Let It Go

There is a song by Erykah Badu called Bag Lady. For some reason, it popped into my mind this morning. The first line is “Bag Lady, you gon hurt your back/dragging all your bags like that.” She continues with a prediction that , “One day all them bags gone get in your way.” It’s clear by the chorus though that the Bag Lady isn’t some homeless woman but a regular woman carrying a lot of emotional baggage. Finally, she advises the Bag Lady to “pack light.”
What bags are weighing us down? Past failures, rejections, wounded pride, pain inflicted on us by others, we need to find a way to let it go.

Of course that is much easier said than done and anything emotional is often messy and anything but clear-cut. I think we have to start by doing two things: Acknowledging the situation and the feelings that go with it and being willing to change. Neither is easy or fun or clean. Yes, it will be a difficult, painful mess, but you have to go through that to get to the other side where things are better.

Acknowledging your situation isn’t easy for a variety of reasons. The first step is to name it.

“I am angry because __________”
“I am hurting because ____________.”

Acknowledgement puts in plain words what the situation is. The hard part about acknowledgement is that you might also have to acknowledge your role in the situation OR you may have to accept that you played no role in the situation.

About 15 years ago, at the height of my spending addiction, I came home to find the cable and the phone disconnected and a late payment of rent notice tacked to my front door. In the past, I’d blamed everything and everyone for my situation. My mom died. My parents didn’t teach me about money. My grandfather spoiled me. Credit cards targeted me. However, in that moment, I had to acknowledge that none of that baggage made me choose shoes and clothes over rent and bills. I did that.

On the other hand, I had a friend who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted relative. When she confided in a family member no one believed her, so she grew up thinking in some way it was her fault. For her, acknowledgement was seeing through adult eyes what she couldn’t see as a child. Acknowledging what had happened and the domino effect it created and recognizing that she was a child and what happened was in no part her fault. Acknowledgement for her was taking the guilt and blame off of her shoulders and placing it where it truly belonged.

After you acknowledge your situation and pain, you must be open, willing and ready to change. It sounds silly to think that some people wouldn’t want to exchange a painful situation for a better one but often times we do. If you have lived with that pain so long, you know it well. You understand it. You’ve grown comfortable with it. It’s your friend.

When you look ahead at that long, messy, painful road to healing, the instinct might be to hold on even tighter to your baggage. After all, you know it and you don’t know all that lies ahead. A lot of people never move past the fear because of … well, fear. The difference between those who let the baggage go and those that cannot is not the absence of fear. If you chose to put those bags down, you will most definitely feel fear … you have to move forward anyway. You’ve got a lot of bags already, so pick up the fear bag too and move ahead.

Here is the song that inspired this post along with the lyrics.

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