When I was part of the online dating “community” a large percentage of male profiles would say, rather emphatically, “No drama, no baggage.” These pompous idiots infuriated me because that request alone, shined a light on their intolerance and serious delusions of the real world. In reading between the not-so-subtle lines they were really just saying, “no psychopaths or crazy ass bitches.”
I don’t subscribe to the concept of us all having “baggage” and bringing it into our relationships. We are all made up of our pasts, dramatic or not. Oftentimes our partners are sympathetic to the memories and experiences we carry and will always carry. If we’re lucky enough, they will want to learn about them and understand the things we bring to the table. I’m happy to say, that I’m one of the lucky ones.
For my entire adult life I have had several recurring dreams that are so incredibly frustrating because they always end in exactly the same way. I know that dreams are highly personal and usually not that interesting to other people but the main themes and point are somewhat universal (I think).
In the first I’m desperately trying to catch a train from Boston to New York where I grew up. The steps go like this: I go to an information booth where I wait while the agents ignore me as they chat and laugh with each other. When they finally acknowledge my presence, in a “what the fuck do you want?” haughtiness I ask when the next train is. Usually I have something like an hour to catch it but it involves taking two subways to get to the right station. I never have the change to put in a turnstile slot (old school, I guess?) and I have to find a place to turn my dollars into coins. I then clamor to make the subway that is just pulling into the station and off I go.
When I arrive I go to some sort of holding area where about seven or so suitcases, duffle bags, and boxes containing pieces of my life have somehow materialized. When the train finally pulls in giving the passengers about five minutes to board I seem to have great confidence that I can take several trips to carry them down to the platform little by little. Some make it on but while I’m going up to get the last of them, the train leaves, along with my boxed possessions. When I ask an agent where they’ll eventually end up, he tells me that if I’m lucky they’ll end up in a massive warehouse of lost things or, they’ll get thrown away. And poof, with that, part of my life is gone forever.
In one other, actually one I’ve had for a bit longer, my collection of books, which in the dream has turned massive, ends up on shelves at my old summer camp, a place I know every inch of and what I consider my “happy place.” There are enough to fill the equivalent of 4 bookstore-sized shelves and are affixed to the softball field where people can come and buy them. Inside one of the bunks are racks and racks of clothes I’ve never seen before in sizes I’ve never been.
Most people have a childhood home where they can store things in a basement or garage. I haven’t had a childhood home since I was 13. I lived with my mother in an apartment and my father lived in California so I’ve had to move my life with me, FOURTEEN times since college. Even though I’ve amassed most of these things post-college, they are my burden to bear, weighing me down, complicating my life. I’ve forgotten trunks in storage rooms with precious things, never to be seen again. I’ve had boxes of letters cave in on each other because of moisture in basements of my several houses. I’ve had to throw away clothes because they’ve spilled over onto basement floors.
For years I’ve attempted to purge the stuff that I’ve lugged around for my entire adult life. I’ve torn up pictures of people who I have no clue who they are, I’ve tossed several piles of angry, critical letters that I received from my father over the years and just kept the nice ones, and sold some shit I never needed in the first place at yard sales. In some ways, this seems like a shedding of some sort, relieving myself of useless baggage that has done nothing but weighed and worn me down. Soon they will stop crowding me.
I recently told my therapist that I dream of a bigger house. We talked about the shit I’ve amassed and how horrible it makes me feel when I see the clutter of my life. In response she said “We have to live within the space we have.” That was profound for me. To me, it means more than needing a place to put things. It also means what clutters and takes up space in our brains, what makes us feel badly about ourselves.
I’m praying that this concept manifests itself in my dreams. I’m praying that my seven or so massive boxes and suitcases whittle down to what is manageable to get on a train in one trip. And maybe, just maybe, those things that end up in a massive warehouse of lost possessions will free me of the baggage that is clearly in my head.