When you’re single, you often hear the term baggage and the preference not to carry or be in contact with it. I believe that it is not only likely to come with that amazing person you’re getting to (or wanting to) know, but is also inevitable whenever two individuals become involved.
If you’ve stepped outside your door or allowed someone inside yours, there is likely to be something experienced. Things happen to a person from birth onward and even with the most fortunate, a history is created. This history, this personal story, all of the things you have seen or done – they make up your so-called “baggage” and yes, they travel with you wherever you go. You may say that you’ve put it all behind you, but guess what – it arrives with you. It’s there, part of you, an undeniable piece of who you are today.
Some people claim to have wiped away their awful past with so&so and whatstheirname but in that very denial they have shown it is not so. Instead of realizing what has happened will have inevitably left a lesson or fair bit of luggage, they move on thinking they’ve placed it properly behind them. Again, it may very well be so – right behind them.
The subtle ways one remembers things that the conscious mind may seem to forget come up eventually during the course of a relationship - especially if it it gets past the initial “let’s both play make-believe that one, the other or both are perfect beings” - and you will find yourself at the “oh, so this is what we have here” awkward place as you look around in wonder (shock & awe!) at the tremendous pile of stuff that the two of you have brought along. Make no mistake of it, you’ve both contributed a good amount of something.
I can hear the protests already from those who have followed the “stay out of a relationship for half has long as the length of the previous one” and I’m a Buddhist / born-again Christian / paying customer of The Therapist of Miracles & Wonders / insert whatever you think has given you a fresh start / clean slate heart / complete clarity of mind here.
To that, I say, no way.
Sure, of course you may feel that certainty of self when you’re on your own. There is no one to reflect back at you those "quirky" qualities. There is the confidence in comfortable customs, the serenity of solitude and there is no unpacking to be done, no checking of luggage if you're going nowhere. For those who’ve followed the “rules” (which are whatever the latest experts outside your head are stating for the inside of yours) and think it takes X times Y to equal you being ready for relating, prepare yourself for an unlikely equation.
Each of us is different but oh, it’s those little things that can push everything off the table and put the two of you on it. Yes, there you are, raw and exposed, with your heart chopped up ever so finely into nicely cubed pieces ready for stew. It will eventually happen.
For those people who have made it past the “Ick! I know who you are now and it scares the hell out of me because I’m suddenly seeing my imperfection glaring back at me" stage, they know how relationships are hard and messy and no one likes to feel that vulnerable. Often, people give up with an "I'm out of here!" attitude. Believe it or not, before the time of expert advice from the television or dating books written by those who say we’re from different planets (one can only wish that were true sometimes) there were those who knew instinctively or through the gradual realization of experience that not one thing you think you know, matters, save for your decisions at certain turns of the relationship.
It’s that moment when you start seeing one another for who you really are. It’s about understanding that it does not all of a sudden make that person a stranger (though they seem like someone different) only that you’ve made it in to that foreign territory where the terrain is rough, the vegetation sparse and visitors are rarely seen or welcome. While you’re there, you’re either allowing the person likewise to explore you, or unfortunately, you’ve set up border patrol and are letting them pass no further. Whether you’re aware of this last stand, this act of self-protection – you’re either going to have an unexpected refugee get past that barrier or worse, they’ll never find their way in at all. Both of you are denied the lush beauty of comfortable compatibility together if neither will allow exploration inside or out.
Relationships are heavy things. Emotions are heavy things, too. We can be moved to tears by a good book, a song, a film, memories of something lost – even a commercial has been known to take a tear from many a dry eye. Feelings can move us forward into the arms of another and more firmly into ourselves. It doesn’t necessarily have to be either / or. Even the lightest and happiest feeling you have while with another can have the opposite effect on them. It seems unfortunate but is often true. This is the dragging complication of entangling one's self up with someone else.
People who have experienced all this and come through it all, with an open mind and open heart, have likely learned to accept the person as they are (with the sincere hope that the action is mutual) or have found the deeper relationship all the more fulfilling because they've realized there is no depth too deep for two hearts to go. A connection between two people where they meet at that border and allow passage time to time either way can make for something incredible and rare. It doesn't mean bliss everyday. Living in our world as human beings does not allow for that. We are prone to suffering and circumstance. It is precisely during those times that these heavy relationships will weather the best.
I don’t believe it’s the amount of baggage, but how it’s kept - the allowance of time to feel out what can be let go of or lost and the weight of experience it accompanies – ultimately, the sum of self will always be with you. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
A heavy thing, yes, but so is life.
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Feedback is both welcome & appreciated.
This was my writing post for July Week 1 in the community brigits_flame. I turned over several different ways I could have written about this subject (especially the obvious) but this is what came out when I finally started to write last night and finished up at seven-something this morning. I was worried that I wouldn't make the noon deadline today and it was important to me to at least participate because I want to write, ya know? I haven't involved myself in one of these writing contests before but I'm hoping that if I manage to stick it through with the challenges that I'll become more comfortable with prompt writing (and writing, in general).