You have emotional baggage. So do I. Plenty of it. Adulthood is about lugging invisible baggage that has accumulated over the years. Perhaps an overly simplistic theory, but I think more years means more baggage. I think the older we are, the more existential stuff we have to tote on our merry way.
This metaphor, like so many others, has become a cliche. We banter about it. We take it for granted. Everyone has baggage, we say. And it is true. Hackneyed or no, I like this metaphor (and cliches) and here on this Monday morning, I plan to unpack it. Feel free to help.
Packing. Are you a light packer or an overpacker? Do you think things through, pare it all down to the essentials or do you always bring more than you need? Is the methodology of packing up to us? Do some of us choose to bring with us only a few things, important things, that define who we are? Do others (hi, Me!) bring everything in case we might need it? How do you pack? Do you shove it all in? Or do you compartmentalize neatly: Here are Childhood Issues, Body Issues, Relationship Issues, Sexual Issues, Parenting Issues, Financial Issues. Can we really separate these things anyway? Life is turbulent. Contents might shift during flight.
Unpacking. This is when it gets interesting (for me). How do you unpack your existential suitcase? Do you unzip gingerly, take things out one by one, with thoughtful precision? Or do you whip it open and dump it all over? What is the appropriate rate at which to unpack your things? Is unpacking too slowly akin to being fake, to lying about who we are? Is unpacking too quickly, too recklessly, presumptuous, alienating, and ill-advised? And what about letting others unpack for us? What about letting spouses and shrinks and friends unload our things? Is this cheating? Is this lazy? Is this unavoidable? Is unpacking an inherently collaborative effort?
Blogging = Unpacking. I do not think that we bloggers have more existential baggage than our non-blogging counterparts. But we are interested in the art of unpacking. Each day, on this blog, I unpack something else. I pull it out, sniff it, examine the wrinkles. And then I show it to you. And in showing it to you, I am saying, This is a little piece of me, of what I'm lugging. This is a clue - for you and for me - about who it is I am at this very moment. And then the next day, I do the same. I pull out another item that, like it or not, belongs to me, another aspect of my evolution. And the very act - and art - of unpacking has its own cathartic appeal. It is a daily acknowledgment of the flawed self, of life's load. And after days, and months, I can look back at my things, scattered about. And by reflecting on just how I unpack, and how quickly, and how insecurely, I can see a bit better who I am: I am a lost soul, at once fearless and full of fear, deeply flawed and seeking perfection, in love with life and love and little girls.
Emotional Baggage Claim. This is important. It is not a given that we can recognize our own baggage when it comes around on the belt. That misshapen duffel full of childhood issues? Not mine. That Louis Vuitton full of insecurities and fears? Nice bag, but the contents? Never.
At the end of every plane trip, you linger at baggage claim and watch the bags go by. If you don't see your luggage appear right away, you panic. You imagine the worst. And then you entertain the What If. What if your baggage is gone for good? What if you had to start over? Accumulate items and issues, one by one, all over again? This thought is at once devastating and empowering. Faced with the prospect of being separated from your stuff, you realize that that stuff - however metaphysically jumbled it is in there - is part of who you are. And you realize that in losing those issues, those fears, those existential foibles, you would be losing yourself.
Losing yourself. There is something intriguing about this. Imagine ridding your identity of all of the pain, the regret, the scars. Imagine whittling that cumbersome baggage which you can hardly lift to a sleek little carry-on. Or to nothing at all. Imagine trooping through life with your hands free. There is something tempting about this. About not being weighed down.
But temptations fade and reality finds you once more. Your experiences and memories and tragedies, however bruising at times, are yours. It is these things that make you unique and discrete in this big, bad world. Removing these things would be like removing your DNA. Impossible. And at this impossibility, you smile. Your baggage is you. You are your baggage.
Do you agree that accumulating existential baggage is part of living? Do you think that there are appropriate ways to pack and unpack our things? Do you think bloggers are in the constant business of unpacking?