Baggage Check

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Lately, I’ve been noticing some of my habits. Not the “endearing” ones like buying yet another pair of black shoes, or driving too fast, or leaving cupboard doors open so that tall friends leave my home with knots on their noodles. Nope. I’m referring instead to the little bag of tricks I’ve perfected to keep from showing my vulnerability. And the weird thing is, until recently, I didn’t even know I was carrying the thing.

It all started with one of those Facebook messages. Now, I’ve heard folks kvetch about those of us who use quotes as status updates, but personally, I like’em. They’re a whole lot cheaper than going to a shrink and way shorter than your average sermon. This one was a quote from American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. I pay attention to Pema, because her book Start Where You Are plopped me onto a path that changed, and continues to change, my M.O. I don’t remember the exact words, but it had something to do with softening and opening one’s heart.

As someone who gets wounded far too easily for some people’s tastes, my immediate reaction was, “Sheesh! I already wear my heart on my sleeve—if it gets any softer, it’ll slide right off my arm.”

But then as so often happens with this kind of thing, I became aware of some behavioral tics that do indeed keep me safe, but also more alone than I’d like to be sometimes. Averting my eyes from that person who makes me melt, masking insecurity with intellect. Getting defensive instead of being curious, the sheer number of times I judge myself harshly each day or jump to conclusions. I have a hunch I’m not alone in this.

The benefit of having had a lot of life experiences is, well, experience. However, when it comes to being with others, I’ve begun to see it as a real detriment as well as an asset. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking I’ll know how a particular relationship will play out based on the past. But I don’t, really—unless I rush in to stick a period where a comma would be more appropriate.

While it is scary, there’s a lot to be said for venturing out, for not knowing. There are too many echoes in this here silo. Perhaps it’s time to at least nudge open a window. As Leonard Cohen said, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”


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