Dropping My Baggage
by Trudy Boyle

The original meaning of dropping or leaving your baggage had to do with travel. Later on, it became a psychological tool for leaving behind what no longer serves you well. Last month, I had the unwanted grim duty to leave my favorite bag behind in Chicago.

After a fantastic weekend event that exceeded all my expectations, four of us stayed over for one additional night. We had grand plans for Monday, and my flight didn’t leave until after five, so there was time to do touristy things like the famed Architectural Boat Ride in Chicago.

Sadly, that was not to be. The handle on my favorite, go everywhere with me,  suitcase would not go down. Pushing in the little catches, wiggling, and jiggling, and carefully applying pressure – well, nothing helped. Finally, my friend Gregg took a mallet and seriously banged on it but not a budge. This suitcase was built to withstand abuse and it did.

Now what?

This was no ordinary suitcase, but my favourite suitcase that had accompanied me everywhere. I couldn’t get a grip on the simple fact that this was the end of the line for me and my treasured bag. It was a holiday weekend – time was precious and my friends were using up their sightseeing time attempting to resolve my baggage issue.

The airlines wouldn’t take it because the extended handle could get caught and create havoc. We were unable to take the handle off. Consequently,  I had to face the fact that I would need to leave this suitcase behind.

As I said goodbye to my suitcase that had carried my belongings on short and long trips I was discombobulated. Any other suitcase I owned, I could have easily parted ways with, but not this one. I who take pride in not being attached to material goods came face to face with me

As I stewed about this and wanted it to be different, I remembered the cake.

Many years ago, I baked a birthday cake for my mother. There were about 13 people coming to dinner and it was a beautiful sunny April day. When I went to check the cake, I saw that it wasn’t rising. It seemed odd, but I waited for five more minutes and there was no change.

And then I saw the problem. The bowl with the dry ingredients was sitting in a corner of my counter, waiting to be added to the batter. I knew immediately that this cake would never rise. Still, I checked a couple of more times.

And then my son said. “Mom, it looks like what needs doing is to bake another cake – right now.” And I did.

The suitcase felt the same. I didn’t want it to be true. But eventually, I had to face the fact that this suitcase was not getting on the plane with me, and I had best go and buy a new one.

And I did.

Before I left, I thanked my suitcase for faithfully accompanying me for thousands of miles around the globe. That simple reflection brought back wonderful memories of “our” travels and I decided then and there that there was more to be done.

It came to me that it was time to leave behind all my old psychological baggage as well.  What no longer was necessary could remain in Chicago, tucked away in that suitcase.

What could I tuck inside:

I started out with the familiar ways I annoy myself. Certain habits that allow me to keep postponing things that I don’t like doing  taxes; budgeting; exercise and the thought that I shouldn’t be that kind of person.

Mindless words – the unfaithful yes; false promises said in good faith but not kept; my assumptions of others

Notions about myself: I can rise to every occasion; I face the facts– ah ha, now that was a big one.

My best example: For months I have had neck pain. I have always seen myself as a person who doesn’t have physical aches or pains.  Naturally, I understand the absolute rare good fortune that has been my experience. However, it appeared that I had obviously come to expect this good fortune. Why?

I realized that in spite of the evidence – three months’ worth of neck pain, that I did not accept that I was a person with neck pain, just like so many others out there. I was still in denial and preferred to think that my neck shouldn’t be like this. Yes, I sought help, but I kept seeing it as something out of the ordinary and something that should not be happening to me.

When I dropped that in my, now, metaphorical bag, after I returned home, I experienced relief. My neck pain was clearly exacerbated by my unwillingness to accept that this is how it is. Once I did, there was relief. It still hurts but not all the time and I mostly don’t think about my neck anymore.

Have I made progress on other things I left behind? Yes and no. First of all, it isn’t a contest. And secondly, we can make changes without doing it perfectly. It is important not to be against ourselves so I tread lightly and by choosing only a few things every day to do I make progress. Thirdly, I am a human, not a robot and therefore there is no reason to believe that we move along a path in some defined order.

I wonder what things you are attached to that one day you will need to let go of. As we live longer and simplify our surroundings, we all come up against this dilemma. I have taken false pride in my ability to do so but I came up short with my suitcase, of all things. And not a glamourous one, but rather a practical, reliable, efficient workhorse kind of suitcase that I counted on.

Good effort to all of you when this happens to you. I say “when” rather than “if” because it is universal.


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