Travelling light.

vintage-luggage-winona-steunenberg“The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that. What is grievance? The baggage of old thought and emotion.” ~ Lao Tzu

Take a look at the baggage you are carrying around with you today. If grief, resentment, pain or regrets are weighing you down then it’s time to unload.

When you’ve suffered disappointments or been left disillusioned by love-ones it can be hard to move on. The shock, denial, guilt, anger you can experience as a part of grieving are natural for a time, yet if you don’t progress through those stages it is all too easy to become trapped in the past.

But life is about living in the present and anticipating the future. You can’t do that if you are carrying the baggage of yesterday into today. And when difficulties arise they simply add to your luggage of psychological pain. It gets heavier and you become encumbered.

Instead of embracing each day afresh, you return to the same mental battleground. You replay the same scenarios or repeatedly hear the same negative thoughts, only to be hurt yet again. Your bags are stuffed with rejection, shame, bitterness, jealousy, mistrust, apathy, confusion, anger, fear. In fact they can be filled to the top but it doesn’t matter, you find another bag and carry that too.

“Live, so you do not have to look back and say: ‘God, how I have wasted my life.’ ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

I spent years carrying the baggage of my childhood abandonment and abuse. I carried them for so long that they became part of me. Where ever I went those bags came with me, because the loss of my mother and abuse by my father were all I had to define me.

Instead of using those traumas as stepping-stones to a better tomorrow, I used them as a prison wall. Instead of taking each day as an opportunity to restore and renew, I added to my pain. Instead of living my life as the person I wanted to be, I lived as a victim of my past. Not surprising then that depression and alcoholism became my coping strategies to help me carry my emotional load. Until they too become too much to bear.

Like many who have gone through life clutching on to the baggage of trauma or tragedy, I realised the damage being caused physically and emotionally. However, not only did I not know how to let go, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to.Because the prospect of change was so terrifying.

I had dragged those issues of rejection, abuse, depression, alcoholism with me for so long that I couldn’t imagine being without them. My fear of the future overwhelmed the familiarity of my existence. And what a terribly dark existence it was.

The truth was that all I possessed defined me as a victim. When I finally crumbled under the pressure of my past, I knew deep down though that I had to make the choice to give up or get up.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

The only way to move forward was to throw away all those things that held me as a prisoner of my past. I was so weary. I’d had enough of it all. Still it was only when I hit rock bottom that I turned to faith.

It wasn’t easy, but I gave myself permission to hand over everything that was harming me. Gradually over time I released all the pain and fought the demons that had troubled me for as long as I can remember. Faith taught me that I didn’t have to understand why I had endured such trials and that there was nothing I could do to change the past.

Acceptance of what had gone before helped me to begin living in the day and start looking to the future. Then forgiveness provided the key  that set me free to clear out all the baggage. With my lightened load I could  reclaim my life and fill it anew.

Now I have a faith-filled heart full of hope, love, joy, and trust. I continue my journey in sobriety with gratitude and serenity. No longer burdened by yesterday I choose to appreciate today whatever it brings and eagerly await tomorrow.

And that is what I would wish for you. Don’t let the events of the past keep you from enjoying the future that awaits you. Put down those bags crammed with destructive negativity. Leave them and don’t look back. You don’t need them those things any more. .

liberty-london-suitcasesTime to find some bright, new vibrant luggage and fill them with everything that can bless and fulfill your mind, body and soul. Those things that nourish and uplift are weightless.

Believe me, it’s time to start travelling light.

Guilty.

“A guilty conscience needs no accuser.” Proverb

Nobody is perfect. Everyone messes up. So why is it so hard to forgive ourselves sometimes?

Guilt can be positive if it acts as a catalyst for change. Seeking to make amends, having genuine remorse can all be stepping-stones to healing and forgiveness. The process of resolution diminishes guilt as others reaffirm their acceptance of us and our apology. You can learn from your mistakes and move on.

But if you don’t forgive yourself then you are heading for misery. Guilt will eat away at your mind, body and soul. And the grater the regret, the more you will try to overcompensate or withdraw completely.

When I was in the grip of addiction, it was shame that kept me there. I was so embarrassed that drink controlled me. I was horrified at the things that I did to myself and others. So I drink even more and so the cycle of shame continued. As my alcoholism passed the point of no-return, I could no longer bear my guilt. I felt so worthless and undeserving. It was more than self-pity. My life was such a mess, and I genuinely thought it was my fault.

The chains of guilt needed to be broken in my life, but first I had to decide that I deserved to be free. Just like the words of the serenity prayer, I learned to accept the things I couldn’t change and found courage to change the things I could. After releasing those things over which I had no power, I could then focus on releasing myself.

It didn’t come naturally and it didn’t take much for my guilty conscience to raise itself. When it did I had a choice to make – use the emotional energy to beat myself up all over again or forgive and restore.

“Grace is getting something that you don’t deserve; and mercy is not getting something that you do deserve.” ~ Francis Bacon

My faith showed me the path to forgiveness through grace and mercy. It was the way to break the chains of shame once and for all.

There are many things that I wish I hadn’t done or should have done.  But today I have the freedom of forgiveness. The freedom to depart from the past and to  welcome the future.

Guilty? Not any more.

Thank you to Jane Hinchcliffe for linking my blog to her wonderful post ‘Forgiveness sets you free.’

Top image thanks to Rebecca N
http://www.etsy.com/listing/107571252/distress-art-print-8×10
                                    Bottom image thanks to Katie Daisy