TWENTY THREE: Gucci Baggage

I tried to sue the airport for misplacing my luggage…I lost my case

I am punstoppable

Let’s be real, if you take more than one trip from the car to carry your groceries inside you are WEAK! We’ve all done it, we’ll suffer and strain and nearly cut the circulation from our fingers in one heroic trip from the car to the kitchen to drop all of the bags and hope none of the jars broke. We’ll carry that baggage through the gates of Hell for the sake of not going back to the car, unless of course we forget to lock it…damn it.

Which brings me to what I’ve been contemplating this week: baggage. Not the luggage you pay an absurd amount of money to accompany you on your flight. I’m talking the stuff you can’t see, the emotional and spiritual stuff that weighs you down, the invisible load on your shoulders.

I had a lot of baggage back home. I was in the town where I had my heart broken, it seemed like everywhere I went I was reminded of it. Ah yeah, that’s where we went on a picnic when I was unwell and overlooked the lake. Oh, there’s the spot where we got into a fight over such and such. Of course, that’s where we caught up with friends before they stopped talking to me.

My very existence in my hometown became incredibly taxing on me, far more than I was willing to admit to myself. I progressively felt more alien in my own home, and the decline in my behaviour followed. I started doing self-destructive things to offside the few who stuck around, right up to my final days in the country. I imagine I made it as easy as possible for my pals to appreciate that I was going away for a while, I was a difficult person to be around at the best of times. My social life suffered, I’d lost all drive and passion for my job, it was abundantly clear that I needed, in some way, to remove myself from the place I called home. At least for the time being, anyway. I needed to allow myself the opportunity to heal and unload this crushing weight from my shoulders and consciousness.

So as I boarded a one-way flight from Melbourne to Malta, I left some of my emotional baggage at the gate. As much as I would’ve liked to have left it all there, it’s not always that simple and clear-cut. Nonetheless, we take the wins where we can, and I boarded that plane a little bit lighter.

We’ve all got baggage in some capacity; maybe it’s heartbreak, maybe it’s a broken family connection, maybe you’re still mad at the kid who knocked your sandwich out of your hands in school *shakes fist*. No matter how great or small, it’s there. It’s not something that we need be ashamed of, it’s as common as buttered toast. The best thing we can do with that big sack of bricks over our shoulder is try to lighten the load, or ask for help when we need a hand carrying it for a while. Easier said, Tim. Yes, yes I know, I’m getting to it.

I found it a strange coincidence (or maybe it was destiny *star twinkle emoji*) that I should encounter a young woman carrying a huge box, damn near breaking her back doing it, as I wandered the streets of Rome pondering the whole notion of baggage. For a brief moment I could see my younger self struggling with the box (I think the pony-tail, tiny frame and handbag helped), so I got her attention; “Madam, can I help you with that?”. The relief on her face was uplifting and I helped her carry it the short distance to her house. A polite farewell and I went on with my day.

What I thought to myself as I walked away was how much I needed help to carry my baggage back home when times were hard. I found help from my friends and family, who offered temporary relief in the form of comfort or a kind gesture of support. I found help in taking the time to myself to process my emotions and have a healthy cry to relieve tension when I needed it. However I needed to do it, for as long as I needed to, I did what I had to do to overcome the setback.

Identifying the ways we can get relief is so crucial in recovery from an emotional setback. It takes the pressure off of us and gives us an opportunity to explore ways we can lighten the load. It’s important to know that you will find a way to do it, however works for you, in as much time as you need.

The last part was something I struggled with, and still do at times. But acceptance comes with practice. Time and time again I would tell myself “it’s been 2 years, you should be over this by now”. The truth is, there’s no guide or time limit. And the moment I stopped being so hard on myself, I started finding ways to offload some of the bricks in that big sack over my shoulder. For me, as crazy as this year has been, I found ways to do it by experiencing new things in other countries when it was possible, or immersing myself in my current home country.

I left some bricks in Slovakia, I left some in Austria, I’ve scattered gravel throughout Malta and as we speak, I am leaving some at the base of the Colosseum in Rome. I left half a dozen suitcases in Melbourne as I departed Australia, then I downsized to a big shoulder bag, to the point where these days I don’t need to check in my backpack at the airport.

The point is, there’s no time limit on healing; and those who put pressure on you to do so aren’t worth your time. But the biggest barrier you will encounter on your journey is you. You know what’s best for you, trust your gut. And most importantly, cut yourself some slack. The moment you take some of that self-inflicted pressure away, you will surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.

Go for a walk this week, leave a brick somewhere. You don’t need it weighing you down. And for the love of God, don’t be so stubborn, sometimes all we need is a little helping hand to carry the weight for a little bit.

Happy Mental Health Monday!

We tend to forget, baby steps still move you forward

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Mental Health

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