Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pack Light: The Real Cost of Relationship Baggage By Lakara Foster, M.ED


A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a friend who was excitedly going over her itinerary for an upcoming trip to Europe. Her plan is to visit several countries over the course of a few weeks. My friend proceeded to tell me she was planning to only take a backpack with all of the essentials she could cram into it. She explained that it is cheaper to fly from country to country within Europe because the airlines only allow you to bring carry-on luggage so everyone on board has to “pack light”.

During the course of this seemingly general conversation, I had a major breakthrough about relationships. There is a very real and heavy cost when you choose to carry baggage from relationship to relationship instead of unpacking before each journey.  Not dealing with your “stuff” can affect you on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

Within one year of finishing graduate school, I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship and 25 pounds heavier. This period began a series of both yo-yo dieting and relationships. It took 11 years to realize that after several subsequent relationships and an additional 25 pounds I still had not dealt with the hurt and shame from that very first one. Wasn’t I too pretty for him to talk to me this way? Wasn’t I too smart for him to cheat on me? Wasn’t I too everything that you are supposed to be for this to happen to you? It didn’t matter because I didn’t believe any of those good things about myself and I carried these insecurities from one relationship to the next for over a decade.

In addition to my insecurities, I packed several additional items including self-doubt, mistrust, anxiety, and depression to carry along into each new relationship. Because I had not dealt with “his” infidelity and how it made me feel, I could not bring myself to trust anyone I dated thereafter. I checked phones incessantly, hacked emails religiously, and spied on lovers even when it was obviously clear they were innocent of whatever love crime I was trying to pin on them.  I ran off several wonderful people because of this “mad woman” behavior, but would never take responsibility for any of it.

It wasn’t until I became consciously liable for my actions that real change began to occur in my life. 12 weeks alone in the house with myself, God, and a broken ankle helped me to fully acknowledge the emotional and spiritual wreck I was and the havoc I had caused in so many others’ lives because I came bearing “so much stuff”.  I completely fell apart. Then I prayed, meditated, fasted, and cried until the pieces of me began to fall into place again. I lost 25 pounds in those 12 weeks and could see a resemblance of the woman I had lost many years ago. I realized how much I missed her and vowed never to lose sight of her again. It wasn’t easy but I succeeded in unpacking.  Below are the three tools that help me unload all of the baggage I had been carrying.

1. Forgive-  If you really want to begin unpacking the baggage from your previous relationships, the first things you must do are forgive yourself and forgive the other person who you felt brought harm to you. I had to forgive myself for allowing myself to be treated in such a disrespectful manner and forgive him as well. I didn’t waste time trying to locate him to rehash things that happened over a decade ago. I simply and consciously chose to feel a different way about both him and the situation. I prayerfully thanked him for the experience and the lessons that manifested from that space together, realizing that I would not be who I am today had I not gone through all of it.

2. Focus- Many of us choose to put our focus on the past instead of the present moment. If you are reading this right now, you are alive; and if you are alive, then you should be focused on living. The reality is there is nothing about the past that we can change, but we can relish in all of the beauty that exists in this moment. Today my focus is on creating healthy and mutually beneficial relationships, serving my God-Given purpose, and riding this life “until the wheels fall off’!

3. “Find The Good and Praise It”- These six simple words which comprise Alex Haley’s motto and have become a daily mantra for me. I can now look back at all of the relationships I participated in and rather than dwell on the harmful aspects of them, I choose to see the good and the God in them. For every hurt, God was there to heal. For all the pain, I learned to press forward with my head held high. For all the stress, I discovered how to strive for peace in all areas of my life.

 I am comforted by the scripture 1 Peter 5:7 that says Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you because I fully understand now that God was present throughout all of it and I  have left all of my insecurities, fears, mistrust, doubts, and anxieties at the altar. I no longer have use for large suitcases and have decided to “pack light” for the next phase of my journey, taking only the essentials I can cram into my spiritual backpack. Thank you Ms. Badu, I too refuse to miss my bus or hurt my back draggin’ all them bags like that!

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