There’s nothing quite like moving house to make you realise you own far, far more possessions than you actually need. I shifted to a new address last week (a revolting process, always) and I was shocked, as I always am, by how much stuff I own… and feel attached to, for reasons I can’t really explain. There were items that are currently useful, items that may be useful in the future and items that are not useful at all but are lovely. As I gathered up and disposed of the items that didn’t fall into any of these categories, I wondered how I can dispose of all the other clutter that’s taking up space in my life – the emotional baggage.
About 10 years ago I went to a Christmas Eve mass in Bondi, which is a suburb of Sydney with a high percentage of travellers, particularly from the UK and Ireland. In his sermon the priest talked about how many backpackers he sees around the neighbourhood carrying their life’s possessions on their shoulders, and he likened this to the emotional baggage so many of us carry around that weighs us down. This is the only sermon I’ve ever heard that I have never forgotten – and since I was forced to attend church services for the first 16 years of my life, I’ve heard a LOT of sermons. He talked about how if we have faith in something, we have everything we need. There’s no cause for carrying around worries. This is the beautiful and alluring promise of spirituality, in all forms: peace. No matter who or what you believe in, if it brings you peace, hold on to it.
When the priest described the burden of emotional baggage in such simple terms, releasing it sounded simple too. But if you’ve read even one post on this blog, you’ll know that my belief in angels and the Universe and goodness and love and human kindness have not shielded me from moments of worry, fear or despair. That’s because I am human. (Just on that note, I would recommend you steer clear of any spiritual guru or blogger who claims they have eliminated these emotions from their lives, and promises that you can too. Utter delusion.) And like every other human I know, I have baggage. And yes, it’s weighing me down.
Here’s a popular saying that pops up on Instagram from time to time: Life is a delicate balance of holding on and letting go. Like, I suspect, most people, I have a tendency to quit at times when I need to hold on, and to stubbornly clutch onto the destructive old stories and the limiting beliefs that I need to release. As previously mentioned, I am human.
There’s a lot I need to let go of right now. And as it’s the super moon, and there’s an eclipse, and a blood moon, and a bunch of other (apparently) VERY SIGNIFICANT astrological portents I don’t really understand, it seemed like a good time to do a quick stocktake of my emotional baggage. It wasn’t a long list, but some of the items were fairly weighty – and many were coated in layers of dust. These include, but are not limited to, my regret over my mediocre career and my ongoing guilt at living far away from my family. None of what I listed is serving any purpose, except making me feel crappy, which isn’t all that useful. Some of this stuff is old and I’m ready to ditch it; some of it needs further processing first. But what if I could just gently ease my backpack straps off my shoulders, place the burden on the floor and walk away? What would that feel like? What would it be like to be so light?
I don’t think I can ever clear away ALL of the suitcases or ditch my backpack but I think that by having awareness of the areas where I’m weighed down, I can start to unpack them gradually. For example, when I notice I’m beating myself up about my lack of professional success (yet again), I feel better equipped to talk myself out of that negative spiral before it snowballs into full-scale self-sabotage.
I do think that sometimes we can continue unhelpful thought patterns even though we’ve long since outgrown them – because they’re comforting in some way. A bit like how I kept drinking beer for years after I had adopted a gluten-free diet – even though beer is loaded with gluten. I kept drinking it because the habit was familiar. Earlier this year I swapped out beer for red wine and the difference to my stomach has been remarkable... as I had known it would be. So why hadn’t I stopped years before? Sometimes thoughts and habits that are unhelpful, or downright destructive, are comforting because they’re familiar. It’s not until you make a point of clearing them away that you remember what it’s like to feel freer, lighter, better.
What about you. Is there something old and heavy that you’re ready to clear away?