The Muses have been full of contrarian perspectives lately, but maybe that's what muses do - shake up our complacency to reveal things hidden in plain sight.
Like our ideas about baggage.
That baggage is something "bad" that we need to get rid of, be relieved of, get unstuck from.
The question that has been bothering me is this: If everything is made up of energy, and energy is neither good nor bad and cannot be created or destroyed, why do we believe baggage is inherently bad and where does the energy from our baggage go if we get rid of it?
We treat our baggage like personal kryptonite, but is it truly all powerful or are we the ones who have turned it into a crippling idol through the stories we are telling ourselves?
Baggage can be anything:
- Something or someone we believe harmed us in some way. Changed us in a way we didn't want.
- Some deep doubt we harbor. Who knows where it originated. Or maybe we do know and avoid the knowing.
- Something we desperately want and feel incomplete or incompetent without.
- Something we desperately don't want and feel buried under.
- Something that feels unresolved, which then feels incapacitating or immobilizing.
Whatever it is, we believe it holds us back in some way and we're grieving. Maybe angry. Or both.
And yet every single one of us knows, or knows of, someone who has taken crippling emotional or physical injury and turned it into their triumph. The athlete who loses a leg and goes on to bigger wins on his fancy prosthesis. The actor who transcends childhood trauma and brings that emotion to her performances. We laud these people and treat them as if they are special, exceptional. As if they are doing something we cannot.
But we can.
With my eight life octaves winding down in 2019 and whatever comes next gathering itself to launch, baggage had been on my mind, specifically one thing from childhood that was still a debilitating burden.
The song of my youth was my mother saying over and over, "If they knew you, they wouldn't like you." Those words have hung over my head like the blackest of storm clouds.
It was time to face these words. I was afraid. What if they were true? What if they weren't?
Then in a conversation with a dear friend, the Muses began speaking…
A couple of years ago, this exquisite woman was in a car crash. Before the accident, she was beautiful, brilliant, driven, and kind. After the accident, she is still beautiful, brilliant, driven, kind, and also has a brain injury. The dots no longer connect in the same ways. Some things take a little longer or need a little help. She lost her job. She has something she really wants to do, a personal project, but her motivation feels different. Or absent. Her injury was feeling like baggage.
And here's where the story turns.
Because of her injury, she lost her job, a good job that she probably would not have left on her own. Because she lost her job, she was found by another one that is so much better. She's getting to use strengths and talents that were languishing in her previous job. Many people are benefiting from her new work. Her old job was a job. Her new job is a budding vocation.
Because of her injury, she doesn't feel motivated to push through on her personal project. As a driven DOer, just acknowledging that feels foreign and strange. Instead, she feels drawn into deeper BEingness. What if surrendering to BEing is exactly what she needs to be DOing right now? Inner DOing instead of outer DOing.
What if her burdensome injury is not her kryptonite after all? What if it’s her fuel, her catapult, her gateway in disguise, kicking her out of her comfy place and into her true BEingness where her superpowers can come into full fruition? What if it brings her new knowledge, new compassion, new wisdom, and a new perspective, all necessary to the work her heart is calling her to do? What if instead of holding her back, it's preparing her for her life's greatest work IF she is willing to work with it?
And that brought me right back to my own baggage…
What if Mom's words (or anyone's words, for that matter) were never my baggage? What if they were always a catapult? Or suitcases helpfully piled up to assist me in jumping the fence of my own self-imposed limitations? What if the magnificent potential of those words was always lurking behind the haze of my own hurt?
My first life octave concluded with my first known vision. One of the messages in that vision was that I was here to learn to love unconditionally, to learn to love the unlovable starting with me. I’ve mostly stayed bogged down in the second part, the unlovable part.
A year to the month after Mom died, she paid a visit. Her Being was warm and loving, not at all her natural human state. She smiled and tenderly said, “I did it all for you.”
And with those new words, so much hurt melted and two pieces of the Puzzle of Me slipped quietly into place. By “withholding” love, she had “forced” me to find it for myself. Just as Dorothy discovered in Oz, true love and all my heart’s desires were not lost and never had been. They were only waiting patiently to be seen beyond the fog of my own hurt, anger, and grief. I had been so focused on the fog, I was blind to everything it was nurturing. Like a little child, I had been distracted by the packaging, ignoring what was inside.
What I had been carrying as heavy baggage didn’t change at all. Her words during her lifetime didn’t change at all and they are still a part of the fabric of my own life.
What changed radically was my perspective. The story I was telling myself.
I have spent a lifetime working on my baggage, healing from my baggage, doing my utmost to jettison my baggage, believing my life’s work could only be fully actualized if that self work were complete. I had always assumed it was crippling and holding me back. Working against my baggage had been my own private kryptonite. It never once occurred to me to appreciate it, to love it, to work with it.
Over the last few months, that perspective has completely turned around, and I’ve been falling in love with my baggage, embracing it as if it were one of my life’s greatest gifts, albeit in disguise. Imagine what can happen with my writing, my teaching, my coaching if I am willing to fully own and love every bit of my baggage? Instead of weakening me and holding me back, it could become my superpower, a bottomless source of compassion and wisdom.
If there's any possibility this is true, then my job, our job, is surrender to our life’s stories and stop fighting them, stop assigning them meaning out of our own hurt. To seek their truth. To transcend our own hurt, anger, and embarrassment, not jettison it. To stop nursing our hurt and start nurturing our strengths, especially the ones that have been disguised as weaknesses. To transform this so-called baggage into what it was always meant to be - a mighty helper, a gateway to compassion - because we are strong enough and willing enough to emerge from the alchemy of adversity as a wholly incorporated Being, strengths and hurts working together for ultimate good.
The saying goes, "Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness." That is a one-sided perspective. Through the process of surrendering, transcending, and transforming, your weaknesses become your strengths, your points of compassion, your catapults out of complacency, your cracks where the light gets in.
Surrender. Transcend. Transform. In that order.
A miracle is happening. Instead of Mom’s old hurtful words, I’m hearing Byron Katie, the queen of re-imagining our stories: “When I walk into the room, I know that everyone loves me. I just don't expect them to realize it yet."
The same miracle can happen for you.
The energy of baggage doesn’t go away. It gets transformed. If we are willing to be a little brave, we can allow it to fulfill its own mission as our superpower.
In my friend's case, her injuries rewired her brain. Her new "circuitry" is in better alignment with what she really wants to do, she just couldn't see that until she stopped fighting it.
In my case, my emotional trauma put me in a far better place from which to write, teach, and coach. It perfectly placed me to understand the search for love at an intensely personal level, but only when I stopped fighting against it and viewing it as something "wrong" with me.
In both cases, changing our perspective, our story, changed everything.
My new perspective of baggage correlates with the other definition of the word - Packing our bags for traveling to a new adventure, a necessary, though not always enjoyable, preparation.
Maybe baggage just needs a little love. Everything just needs a little love. With a little love, anything can be a superpower.
Image credit: Caroline Selfors