Come as you Are….

  While working on my second novel, I have been doing some research on the topic of emotional baggage. This proved to be more of an undertaking then I originally foresaw, because it involved requiring myself to become emotionally invested. Google renders some strange results for emotional baggage; from an article about E-bay auctioning artifacts from people’s personal trauma, to a blog advising how to purge your emotional baggage in order to be a better submissive( which I actually read out of curiosity).  After spending countless hours reading articles, blogs, and other informative pieces, I have come to these conclusions so far:

Some People are Delusional– As I searched endless dating forums I found that a common theme is men complaining about women over a certain age and the amount of emotionally charged luggage they carry. It seems that the general consensus is that a lot of women have a difficult time introducing their emotional issues organically, but rather dump them onto their date’s lap during the first date. If this seems to be your problem, I found one  article that may help, as it warns that nothing scares a man more than making him aware of your emotional baggage. Instead this author gives helpful hints on how to disguise your troubled past, and to learn how to view your negative past in a positive way, putting a whole new layer of crazy into the world of dating. It goes both ways, after the age of twenty-five it is almost impossible to meet someone who doesn’t have some skeletons in their closet. How many times have I heard a friend say ” I like this guy, but he’s too available”, or “he never has any free time, but I think we have something special” ? Every one us brings something into a relationship that we wish would vanish, but that isn’t realistic. If the person is worth the effort, you will both unpack the metaphorical luggage together and work things out.

  Baggage can help you become a genius– The baggage that you’ve carried  from earlier on in life may have shaped you into the creative genius you are now. Einstein may have discovered the theory of relativity, but he had no idea how to handle his own relations. He never had time for his first wife or his two sons, insisting “When one thinks seriously day and night one can’t engage easily in loving chatter.” After the first marriage failed, he moved on to his cousin, treating her as more of a nurse then a wife with a contract that would send most sane women over the edge. Even with his attempts at monogamy, Einstein failed miserably, with extramarital affairs that were well-documented by him. That’s right, not only did he cheat on his wife many times, but he informed his step-daughter and wife when it happened. Things became strained with his eldest son, Hans, when Albert objected to his marriage to an older and (in Albert’s opinion) unattractive woman. He warned his son not have children with the woman, and Hans was not very appreciative. Einstein left a lot of broken hearts and some neglected children in his trail, but he made no secret that his first love was physics, that was his priority. Everything else just got in the way.

  Kurt Cobain changed the face rock music with Nirvana, in a time desperate for an infusion of raw talent. Cobain brought angst to the fore-front, and became a spokesperson for Generation X, much against his own wishes. Even with the success of his band and the birth of his baby, Cobain battled with depression, a lot of it stemming from his fear that the public misunderstood his music. Drug addiction and marriage complications kept the press hot on his heels, and his mental state weakened.

 Another music icon worth mentioning, who like Cobain, is in the 27 club, is Janis Joplin. Best known for being the greatest female rock singer of the 60’s, Joplin has been a huge influence on female musicians to this day. In high school, she was relentlessly teased for being a misfit, her skin, weight, and choice of friends. She relished being an outsider, and it worked for her as musician, people often remembering her outfits as much as her performances. Still she held on to past scars, saying in an interview ” they laughed me out of class, out of town, and out of state.” Despite many ultimatums by friends and producers, Janis failed to quit her heroin addiction, resulting in an accidental over-dose at the age of twenty-seven. While it is tragic that either artist died so young; one has to question where the music industry would be without the addition of these two? Without the darkness that they struggled with, would we have such soulful, life-changing music?

   Childhood Baggage is the hardest to let go of– Some people make great careers from their dysfunctional childhoods, and two authors have found great success airing their dirty laundry. David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs have been compared due to their similar writing style, raw and uncensored, and the dark humor they maintain while recounting humiliating stories from the past. Burroughs is recognized more for his novel ” Running with Scissors”, which was turned into a film in 2003, a story of his profoundly insane circumstances as a child written with such ease the reader questions the validity while at the same time finding Burroughs’ twisted humor engaging. But it’s the more recent ” Wolf at the Table”, where you see how the scars haven’t really healed, as Augusten recounts his lack of relationship with his father in such a harrowing way one can empathize with his need to escape emotional torment by any means necessary.   Sedaris litters his stories with amusing anecdotes and over-dramatization, as a buffer for underlying turmoil in his stories. He has such a talent for humiliating himself while at the same time inflating his own ego, that it is difficult to imagine him really experiencing any shame while recounting his colorful past. Even when he recounts how awful his mother and siblings have been to him at any given moment, there remains an obvious love for the people in his life. Sedaris seems to understand that if his family hadn’t been so crazy, he might not have so much material to write about.

  In the GQ article ” Schemes of My Father”, author Eric Puchner says: ” We live in the age of forgiveness, of doing our best to move on. Too often these gestures have only to do with creating a nice tidy narrative, one we can wrap up and hide away somewhere and promise ourselves will never happen again.”

 Sometimes it isn’t about forgiveness or forgetting, it is about moving on. Perhaps the best lesson is to embrace our baggage, in a healthy way, however that may be accomplished. How boring would life be otherwise?

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