Guess what? We all have emotional baggage.
Being in a new relationship can be uncomfortable at first.
I've been divorced for over a year and have a new man in my life. He's attentive, and romantic, and kind. He buys me my favorite flowers and writes me poetry. He lets me cry on his shoulder when I've had a tough go of it. We make dinner together and explore Dallas neighborhoods and see movies and share tumblers of whiskey in dark, cozy bars. He is my best friend, deepest confidant, and can make me laugh harder and longer than anyone ever has.
And I'm happy. Really and truly happy.
Of course, when you're dating someone, there are things you aren't supposed to talk about. Especially when you've somewhat recently left a fifteen year marriage. There are topics we stay away from because they fear we'll make our dates wish they were anywhere but across the table from us. We worry that their eyes will search for the exit when we delve into the messy abyss of our struggle with depression or our estranged relationship with our mother or that time we got arrested for shoplifting. Sometimes there are topics we're afraid to come near ourselves, because they're too painful or too emotional or just too damm messy to tangle with.
But what happens when your whole life is a bunch of messy things we don't talk about or acknowledge, otherwise known as baggage?
I meet people easily, but I don't tend to keep them around. Sometimes I feel lonely and untethered but more often I don't. I enjoy my independence, but the truth is, I find safety in the fact that my baggage remains mostly in the dark. The details about the tribulations of parenting autistic twin sons and thoughts about my struggle with anorexia and the trials I faced throughout the course of my marriage are things I tend to keep to myself. Friends, and even family, have often been left in the dark.
I worked with twelve other women at my last job. Funny, friendly, gossipy young women with boyfriends and designer jeans and addictions to reality TV. We chatted easily at work and bitched about our boss and bought each other diet Cokes from the sandwich shop next door.
We didn't talk about my family. How could I explain the messiness of being estranged from my mom to other people?
We didn't talk about my eating disorder. How could I talk about something that makes most women uncomfortable?
Of course, everyone over the age of eighteen has acquired some sort of emotional baggage. It's the stuff we carry into new relationships that weighs us down and has left us scarred. But it's helpful to know that we all have it., that even the most “perfect” upbringing has its baggage. It doesn’t require a traumatic event or abuse or screwed-up childhood. I'm learning that the crap we drag with us can either weigh us down and put a rift in our relationships, or make them stronger. It can strengthen the connection between you and your spouse/boyfriend/best friend, creating a bond that only the two of you share. It all depends on how much power we give that baggage and whether we let it define who we are.
So I'm making vow to be more open and honest from now on. I promise to give it all a real chance. Because we all come with baggage. It’s just whether or not I choose to let it define me that will determine how much a role it will play.