I was editing some of my writing today when I came across a line from one of my characters that I want to share:
“I had this piece of information that was like a thing I had to take with me wherever I went and I wasn’t ever allowed to put down.“
It occurred to me that this applies to so much in life.
What are the characters we play in our lives?
Who assigned them to us?
Why do we still play them out?
What beliefs do we have about ourselves?
Who gave them to us?
Why do we still believe them?
We have so many invisible pieces of baggage that we have taken with us wherever we go for so long we don’t even notice them, never mind consider putting them down.
Why will one person think driving on a long journey on the motorway isn’t possible for them, and another from the same family will do it all the time without thinking twice about it?
What causes someone to think that University isn’t for them, there’s no way they could cope with all that workload and be good enough to pass the course while their best friend hops on a train to the other end of the country and emerges three years later with a degree and a job offer?
Why might somebody think they will never get on the property ladder when their colleague saved up all their money until they had enough for a deposit and a mortgage, chose a house and bought it?
You get my picture.
All of this is invisible baggage. The way I worded it you might think that the person who drives up and down the country is happy to do it and the one who doesn’t wants to. Maybe the one who doesn’t would much rather sit on a train and look out of the window while listening to a podcast on baking. Perhaps the family member who does all the driving would love to travel by train but is scared of other passengers harassing them or of not being able to get a seat or of having to travel light. What if the person sailing through university would rather start a business but everyone else in their family has a degree and it is expected of them? Their best friend who doesn’t study might have the chance to travel or land a great job so is able to buy a property when the student will only have loans to pay off.
Things are rarely what they seem on the surface but how often do we stop to consider what is right for US?
We are given labels as children: ‘academic’ ‘slow’ ‘gifted’ ‘creative’ ‘easily led’ ‘shy’. These labels are subliminal and very sticky. They sink into our skin and stay there below the surface. Other items are given to us to carry, placed gently on our shoulders when we aren’t looking so we don’t even notice they are there. ‘Lazy’ ‘selfish’ ‘good at sport’ ‘no chance’ ‘you’ll be lucky’ ‘artistic’. By the time we are adults all kinds of chains and boulders rattle around us. ‘Failure’ ‘working mum’ ‘irresponsible’ ‘head in the clouds’ ‘won’t amount to much’ ‘takes after so and so’.
It would probably do us good to let this stuff go, but how can we do that when most of the time we aren’t even aware we are carrying it?
Here is an exercise to help you:
Find an object to represent you. Maybe a little figure or a toy or a plant or vessel.
Next find some items to be your baggage, as many as you want. Pebbles, paint pots, buttons, anything you find that seems like the thing you want to describe. Arrange them around the thing that represents you.
The next job is to identify them. What purpose, if any, did this idea have? Who gave it to you? Do you need it anymore? Do you want it anymore?
If not, ceremoniously remove it from its proximity to your ‘self’ and either relocate it back where it belongs, maybe wash it first to remove its association with the thing you no longer need, or, if appropriate, discard it altogether.
Repeat this for all the items, keeping only those you feel are useful or that you want to keep.
It can be scary letting go of our baggage, especially when we have carried it for so long. You may feel untethered.
We might become unmoored from our familiar roots and seek out adventure and travel (we can plan for now).
Maybe, without those chains around us we will float up into the flights of fancy we always dreamed of.
Perhaps we will step forward into a chasm of time in which to create the masterpiece that has been growing inside us all this time and is now ready to emerge.
What is something you had to take with you wherever you went and weren’t ever allowed to put down?
I give you permission to put it down now, and any of its friends.
How does it feel?
What will you do now?
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Thank you for reading, please share your insights if you want to, I’m always interested to hear how you get on with my exercises.
Have a great week,