Baggage Or History – There is a Difference |

I have several single friends and all over 50; when the talk turns to relationships, the word history is bandied around often in the same breath as baggage.
“She’s a great gal but she’s saddled with baggage”, said Ron of a woman he’s dated on and off for about a year now.
I prodded. “What baggage?”
“Oh, kids, grandkids, family obligations….”
“Isn’t that her history?” I ask innocently. He has no answer.
Sad , isn’t it when all that makes us, our history, is seen as baggage – something heavy, cumbersome and in the way. Sandy, the woman in question, doesn’t see her family as baggage; to her they are a source of stability, grounding her, a testimony to all she has lived to date.Getting Rid of BaggageRead the singles’ ads and you’ll see declarations of “no baggage”. Give me a break! How can someone have lived without accumulating some form of tangible reminder of those years? We certainly bring back souvenirs from trips, save photos, faded crayon drawings from the kids, even a cute baby dress. I don’t doubt that quite a few of us on the second marriage go round still have the first wedding dress mummified in a box tucked away somewhere. And with all of this tangible “baggage” comes memories and yes, history.From my thinking, when someone late in life is starting over, and more and more are taking that path, it’s a whole package deal. I could no more connect with someone who wanted me to obliterate my past than I could expect him to do the same for me. Our history makes us; it’s the time line that we etched as we matured, learned lessons, acquired understanding, became less rigid, admitted that we could still learn, fell out of love, suffered hurt and yet survived. It’s what distinguishes us from that Barbie doll, 50 years on and she’s still as vapid as the day she emerged onto the market!Lois commented she thought I was being a little harsh on Ron. “There’s history and there’s baggage” she said. “He hasn’t figured out the difference.”Around the dinner table with friends last week I brought this up and asked for opinions, clarification. It was a lively, sometimes raucous, discussion but in the end, six, reasonably sensible adults sorted the differences between baggage and history into two columns.History, we decided, is all the pivotal events that shaped our lives – our education, children, marriages, careers; all those things that come together to season us, to give us form and shape and substance.Baggage is more than Aunt Sophie’s couch that we can’t bear to part with; it’s the emotional weights that we hang on ourselves and that stop us from moving forward. Continuing to carry a grudge against an ex; still determined to get even – that’s heavy and that will get in the way of starting over. Reliance on alcohol or prescription meds to get through a rough patch that never ends – that too slows us down right out of the gate. Allowing adult children to dominate your life, clinging to them, attempting to live vicariously through them . Nobody sane wants to take that on, it’s a mega load that extracts a major fine for any journey you want to take.Baggage has nothing to do with things but it has everything to do with how we feel about ourselves and how we perceive the world as treating us. Going through life with an “it done me wrong” refrain is baggage; going through life with an appreciation for each day demands shedding old complaints, nemeses, and destructive habits. Baggage can be a way of life, there’s no doubt about that. I know one woman in particular whom I avoid like the plague. She’s just plain mean and miserable. No way would I take a journey with her, the baggage she carries limits her every interaction and ability to seize the day.March, our thoughts generally turn to spring cleaning, throwing off heavy sweaters, and in the case of a dear friend, changing from winter to summer drapes. I remember as a child that the slipcovers on the couch changed seasonally. It’s a season when we think new life, new energy, new focus. It’s a wonderful time for sorting through the baggage. Tearing the wraps off that old stuff that we’ve carted around as a mental backpack for years. The heavy stuff that keeps you so stooped over that seeing ahead becomes impossible. No denying that we’ve all got some baggage but what a relief to know that much like spring cleaning, we can throw out stuff past a sell by date and clear some space and wait for opportunity to revitalize with new ideas, new ways of looking at the world.But history – can’t change it and it’s pretty useless to try to obliterate it! It’s who we are. Rejoice, lighten the load.