Emotional Baggage

 

 

Subjective realities can be a real bitch sometimes. The best (and worst) part of surviving into my thirties has been the realization that reality is open to interpretation. Even though I share memories with friends and family, we all interpret events through our own lenses. What I forget, others may remember. What I remember, others might remember in a completely different way, with a radically different context. The way I see a person and my interpretation of our relationship is not always reciprocated.

We can't control what we represent to the people around us. While we might change and grow over the years, this growth isn't always seen or believed by the people we've impacted in the past. The only thing we can do is understand this, and try to respect their experience. Maybe we feel that the resentments and negative opinions people have of us are unfair or baseless, but those are their loads to carry. We cannot expect them to change their perceptions. They do not owe us this.

What we can do is unpack our own emotional baggage. We can accept that the people who have wronged us five, ten, or twenty years ago are probably much different now than they were back then. We can heal our own wounds and let old shit go. We don't have to carry grudges and biases. This does not mean that we have to let those people back into our lives or that we owe it to them to express any kind of forgiveness (although at times this can be part of our own healing process.) What this means is that we have the power to stop letting the old wounds hurt us. We are different people now than we were then, or yesterday, or even five minutes ago. We may still have to deal with the effects others made on our lives, but that moment of anger, fear, loss, or pain is gone. It is over and we survived.

Often, the offender has already forgotten the offense. Why should we keep suffering? And if they do remember, let them carry it. We are new. Every second of every day, we are new. We don't have to carry the dead weight of resentment. We can put it down.

None of us are perfect. There are no doubt times that we have had a negative impact on the people around us, not always intentionally, but sometimes our intentions don't matter. The damage is done. We might not remember the moment that we hurt someone, or we might have a very different memory of it, but it does not matter. Their experience is real for them. It is a part of them, and we have no right to demand they drop it and move on. We need to acknowledge their wound, not belittle their pain just because we don't see it.

 

This does not mean we have to live in the shadow of their resentment. We should take an honest look at our actions. If we've done wrong, we do what we feel we must do to make it right, not bury ourselves beneath guilt and shame forever. We don't have to wait for a pardon. We should not expect one, but we do not have to be haunted by the judgements of others. We can't change anyone else, but we can change ourselves. We can grow, learn, evolve and move on. We can deal with our own burdens. We can let it go and hope that someday they will be able to do the same. We can take our mistakes and let them shape our growth, teach us to be better people. 

Every second of every day, we are new.

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St. Paul, MN
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