In Case of Emergency
Last week I was on a Delta flight from Atlanta to San Francisco, listening to the flight attendant give the pre-flight safety talk. He said something we’ve all heard a million times before. But this time, I heard it in a new way. After the instructions about what to do in case of an emergency and making sure your oxygen mask is secure before helping others. (Blah, blah, blah) he said:
“Leave your baggage behind.”
A smile came over my weary face as I brought my seat tray to its upright and locked position. Earlier that day I’d facilitated a workshop for 25 financial advisors. Like me, these advisors are transitions specialists; in our own way we often play an important role in peoples lives at a time when some major life event is working us.
The workshop theme was “How to Transform any Ending, Exit or Good-bye into a Fresh Start.” We discussed the 4-step process I developed for Honorable Closure and we had a lively discussion about Step 3 – Let Go and Let It Be. Many people believe Letting Go is hard but I believe holding on is even harder.
We’re all members of the Scar Clan
Let’s face it, if you have done any bona fide living and taken any risks you will have some emotional baggage. My mentor, Angeles Arrien, used to say “we are all members of the Scar Clan,” having endured various betrayals and disappointments, some epic, others miniscule. It’s part of being human. So, if you have been disappointed or betrayed, I say: “I hear you! Welcome to the Human Race. It’s not just you. We’re all in this together. “
Over the years I’ve developed a general rule of thumb not to maintain close personal relationships with anyone who needs more than 10 minutes to unpack their emotional baggage. These are people who know the gift of declaring things complete and letting go. It gets easier with practice and may add more to your lifespan than taking your daily vitamins, though my research on that point is entirely experiential.
These friends don’t flash their scars for others to see. They aren’t hiding or denying their challenges. They resolve their regrets, release grudges, and extend the gift of forgiveness to themselves and others, cultivating compassion and an open heart. And yes, sometimes that is heavy lifting, not so easy, but they lift Once and For All and declare it complete. Practicing Honorable Closure is another expression of mindfulness and present moment awareness, because honorable closure allows us to stay current in our lives, not draining ourselves (and those around us) with tired, worn out stories about what went wrong yesterday or five years ago.
This is different from blowing off steam. I’m recalling my friend, Lori, who recently met me for dinner with the greeting: “Can I complain about my family for a few minutes?” then proceeded, with my encouragement, to outflow about her frustrations with her sister for the next several minutes. Together we had a good laugh. She felt better and I was happy to listen, because I know her to be responsible in working through her upset feelings. She honored me with her request because it allowed me to extend her care and attention. This approach can work with cranky bosses, unfaithful spouses, and all other irritants, without annihilating an entire evening.
As we approach the Summer Solstice, how much emotional baggage do you plan to carry into your summer season? Can you travel lite with carry on, or will you be checking heavy bags and paying onerous fees? The heavier the bag the higher the fee.
Drop The Old Story
One way to lighten up is to answer this question: What story can I stop telling, even if it is true? Because true or untrue isn’t the point. The point is, the sky is blue, strawberries are at their peek, and it’s light far into the evening (here in the Northern Hemisphere). Don’t you wanna’ step into a waiting taxi ASAP, without waiting under those neon blue airport lights for that ridiculous spinning luggage carousel to spit out that bulky bag to a chorus of blaring alarms?
Indeed: In case of emergency, leave your baggage behind.
I promise, you’ll never, ever miss it.
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