About every two or three months, the manager of my apartment building puts a notice up in the elevators to let everyone know that hard rubbish collection day is happening soon. Last time it happened, it was an opportunity for me to get rid of my broken toaster and my old desk. It’s a great service that helps me remove unneeded belongings in a responsible way and make space in my home.
While it’s annoying having to get the unwanted belongings down to the ground floor and outside to the collection point, I am really grateful that I don’t have to do anything more than that. Who knows how long that old desk would have stayed in my apartment without this service?
Once the useless stuff is gone, I love the feeling of the space left behind. That space is called ‘opportunity’. I can fill it with anything I want, or simply enjoy the clear space.
This process had me thinking about a service we could all use. Let’s call it ‘emotional baggage collection day’. Oh the space and ‘opportunity’ I’d have if my emotional baggage was collected and taken away, never to be seen again! I could fill the newly cleared out space inside me with anything I wanted. I could use the energy that used to go into managing all that baggage to create, to write, to form new relationships, or to solve problems. Or I could just bask in the peace that exists in that space.
In reality, of course, it’s not possible to simply leave my emotional baggage at the door and have someone else do the work of taking it away. Nope, that’s something I need to take care of myself. And I absolutely do need to take care of it because emotional baggage is an energy drainer and a breeding ground for self-sabotage.
I need to find the old, negative emotions no longer serving a purpose. This is different from emotions I experience in the present moment; they are providing me with important and useful information about my current situation. Those are messages I may need to heed for good decision making. But emotions about something that happened a day or a week ago or longer, that do not serve to make the present better, have got to go. That stuff is like out of date milk; it’s rotten and it’ll make you sick. Imagine milk that’s been sitting in the fridge for a decade! Emotional baggage that’s been held onto for that long is just as toxic.
Typical types of emotional baggage are resentment and anger. Guilt is also quite common. And hatred is a particularly rancid one. I need to, as a first step, find all these kinds of baggage within me, name them for what they are, and acknowledge that I’ve been carrying them around to no one’s detriment but my own.
Then I need to let go. That’s the second step. I know this can be easier said than done, but stay with me because there’s no healthy reason to continue holding on. Carrying around that crap doesn’t bring other people to justice or make them sorry. If they are sorry for the ways in which I believe they have wronged me, they are sorry regardless. Holding on to resentment won’t make any difference to their level of remorse.
Still, we hold on to our emotional baggage as though it protects us. We think we need it as a reminder about what someone has done to us. As though it will guard us from that person in the future. Or help us be on the lookout for other people who might try to do the same.
There is some method in the madness but, mostly, it’s just madness. All of the possible benefits of emotional baggage are minute compared to the freedom, empowerment and opportunity that is created by letting it go. Plus, we can still make smart decisions about other people, and who to let into our lives, without needing to protect ourselves with a layer of emotional baggage.
Letting go often requires forgiveness. I need to forgive – for real. That means one hundred percent, absolutely, no exceptions, removing that person or persons, and the memory of what they did, out of my mental space. Forgiveness is the spiritual version of the nice people who come to collect the hard rubbish from my apartment building.
This doesn’t mean what happened was okay. Nor does it mean that person should stay in my life. It means I understand that I can’t change the past. It means I have the energy to make smart decisions about the future based in self-worth and self-respect. It means I inhale and exhale deeply because I have removed the weight of emotional baggage.
For my own benefit, I need to forgive. I need to give myself the apology I am never going to get from the person who owes it. That’s a bad debt that needs to be written off. I need to cut my losses and move on with my vision for my life.
I need to forgive even though it’s not easy. Gandhi was one of the most forgiving and loving people who ever lived and he said,
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”
It is an attribute of the strong… and the happy.
I forgive because I want to be happy.