Putting down the baggage

Baggage is heavy, it slows you down and is easily tripped over. I’m finding at the moment that an array of baggage I’d not noticed I was hauling, is making life hard. The baggage announces that things are bound to go wrong because I’m not good enough and will be judged accordingly. It borrows the voices of everyone who has ever ridiculed and denigrated me, to tell me that failure is inevitable. Important things will go wrong, and they will go wrong because I am inadequate, and letting the side down. But then, no matter how well I’ve done and no matter how difficult the circumstances, there have always been people keen to point out how I should have done it so much better, faster, etc. My mistake was to listen to them.

The baggage I carry most readily is caused by feeling that I’ve failed. The mistakes I have made, my weaknesses, shortcomings and insufficiencies are what haunt me. I can often let go of unkindness that has come to me from other people. I can quite often forgive and forget, or find excuses and justifications for them, that lets them off the hook. I let the people who wound me get away with it, and shoulder a bag full of it-was-all-my-fault, and heft it about. Sometimes the weight of these squashes me and I struggle to move.

It’s taken me a long time to learn how to be wary. I’ve accepted people who have asked me to shoulder the blame. I’ve been reduced to weeping, panicking distress and let myself be persuaded it is my fault for being weak, emotional, demanding… Those are difficult bags to put down. They grow into you after a while. They have become me such that putting them down feels a lot like tearing my own skin off.

I’ve found the best solution is to pick things over and look for other possible explanations. I know I get things wrong sometimes – we all do. It is important to me to understand those mistakes so that I can learn and improve. Mistakes are key to learning. Someone who cares about me will help me make sense of things when there’s a problem. It’s a very basic manifestation of care, that. I do not want to avoid the baggage by deciding that I am always good and right, because that would prevent me from seeing my mistakes, and turn me into someone who requires everyone else to shoulder the blame. That would not be ok.

So I pick things apart, and I look for the exact points at which my judgement was wonky, or I was working from insufficient data, and I try to make sense of them and see what can be learned. So long as I’m not dealing with people who require me to be innately wrong so that they get to always be perfect, the unpicking works. I can make sense of things, resolve things, do better next time. Sometimes I act in haste or in anger. Sometimes I am not as compassionate as I would like to be. Only in owning and holding that can I move forward and change it. Owning it hurts, always. Failure to own it causes a lot more damage. I have learned that I can own and hold a shortcoming, work through to understanding it and then stop beating myself about the head with it. I do not have to drag every failure behind me as I go. I just have to learn and do better next time.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “Putting down the baggage

  • Christopher Blackwell

    It is amazing to see how much baggage that we have been carrying that we don’t have to. What a relief to put most of it dow and only carry the load that is our life today.

  • catchersrule

    Yes, getting rid of long-kept baggage is very difficult. It’s kind of like staying somewhere you don’t like just because it’s easier, or keeping clutter in the house because you’re used to it. Feels better to let go, but the act of doing so is rough.

    On the brighter side, I should mention to you that I did try out the sauerkraut recipe and wow did come out fabulous!

  • ohnwentsya

    Thank you for having the courage to share your process on your blog. Many have yet to realize or understand the dynamics you elucidate here-that are crucial to becoming free of manipulation and abuse.
    Even those of us who have been working at this for many years can always use such clear discussions to keep from being drawn back in to things we thought we had grown past and released.
    I’m personally heartened to read someone so active, successful and accomplished experiencing the same doubts and baggage I struggle with.
    It is all too easy to believe I am uniquely deficient when in fact some things are integral flaws in a culture of power-over that affect us all, one way or another.
    I also love seeing people (women especially)deconstructing the control mechanisms of patriarchy; making public and transparent what is meant to be hidden and control us from within.

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for this feedback, I really appreciate it. I think there’s a lot of power in making visible the many things that we are encouraged to keep quiet about, and cultural mechanics are something I frequently find myself wanting to dismantle.

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