I was on a date once when a guy confidently told me that he didn’t have any baggage and that his mum told him to not bring anyone home that did. It knocked me for six because not only did I realise that I would never be meeting his mum, I also realised that he was somewhat delusional.
Baggage is the ‘stuff’ we bring into relationships: the preconceived ways of thinking that have been formed from our previous experiences. It affects all our relationships, but the romantic ones seem to intensify the baggage and lay it all out, creating a metaphorical flood of emotional mess and confusion. Baggage can be as ordinary as thinking that we need to look a certain way to be liked, or as unusual as thinking that an argument is only finished once you’ve split an ice cream sundae with two yellow spoons and a cocktail umbrella in your hair.
My first port of call for baggage handling is, of course, to take it to the dance floor with Mary J Blige. Her song Baggage is perfect for a cheesy bedroom dance solo to kick-start the baggage battle. This could then be followed by the widely – or not so widely -respected Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes approach:
Figuring out the root of the thought pattern can make it easier to rationalise. Once you know the reason you can’t kiss someone without turning your head is because of that time all the kids called you “piggy” when you, and equally-snout-nosed Josh didn’t need to in year six, it becomes a lot easier to change. (We can all join me in the illusion of that being an illustration and not the story of my life.)
Find people to bear the load with, people who will give you space to air your irrational fears and see them in the light of others’ eyes. I find this is best done on a cosy sofa with a glass of wine. I have a few key people who know when to gently point out that I’m being irrational and then help me unpack it. They’re the good eggs, definitely keepers in the friend department.
Flexibly, knowing what can stay and what needs to go. The magnificence of relationship is how it wonderfully mirrors the nature of God. The ability to know someone, their lovely bits and their not-so-lovely baggage and still say: “I’m in.” We live in a world that enables us to show a highlights reel of our life, but the admiration we get in response to that is shallow. The joy of dating is the discovery of a person – a whole person – which includes the awkward, the odd and the unthinkable. I’m truly smitten when I am embraced despite the discovery of a setback. Being truly known despite our baggage means providing them with the popcorn, the glasses and a front row seat to the outtakes reel of our lives; and how wonderful it is when they still stick around.
While in dance training, I was told not to think of getting height while on my toes, but to push into the stability of the ground. This is my approach to dating: ultimately I know a God who knows the fullness of who I am – all of it – and still loves me and wants to do life with me. I push into the safety of who I know Him to be and sit in the knowledge of our relationship. This is what gives me the strength and steadiness to date because no matter how weak, broken or tangled I feel on the inside, I’m certain of who I am known to be: loved, seen and cherished by the One who carved the mountains and filled the sky. This gives me what I need to stare baggage – both others, and mine – in the face and say: “Do one”. It gives me the resolve to push through for the beauty of relationship anyway.
So, what do you think? Is there anything that’s been weighing you down that you need to get rid of today? Do you have any other tips on getting rid of emotional baggage to add?