IF ONLY GOD WOULD GIVE ME A SIGN! Please Check Baggage

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by Linda M. Potter

I’m that person in airport security lines that everybody despises. It takes me ten minutes and eight bins to unload all my carry on stuff. For starters, my “personal item” is a large black croco purse that holds two smaller purses inside each other like those nested boxes they sell at Christmas. In cold weather, I wear two sweaters and a lightweight jacket under a tent--sized poncho style coat. I only wear one pair of shoes, but if I could figure out a way to stuff my Sketchers into my high heeled boots, I’d double up on them as well. My “small” suitcase, that houses everything I can’t possibly live without for more than two days, is stuffed within an inch of its zippered life.

My husband is a lot like me. On a recent trip with our 4-year old grandson, Grandpa carried his own bulging bag, a computer tote overpacked with everything from an alarm clock to a wave machine, Aidan’s seam-stressed “Going to Grandma’s” suitcase, a child-sized plush monkey, and a car seat (which kept falling apart every 100 feet or so). To make sure we didn’t lose him in all the baggage, we put Aidan on a leash and tied him to grandpa’s belt. We looked like a band of gypsies in search of a campsite. On a recent trip to Seattle, my daughter asked if I could bring her my old sewing machine. I seriously considered carrying it on, but backed out at the last minute because I wasn’t sure how I’d get the 30 pound Singer in the overhead compartment without maiming other passengers.

Why do I carry a U-Haul’s worth of stuff onto a full airplane knowing that I’m going spend the next three hours with my knees jammed up against chin, sharing a seat with a super-sized handbag? Because I will do just about anything to avoid having to check my baggage. I’m not sure if it’s the $25 fee or simply some crazy need to take all of my stuff with me everywhere I go. I tell my friends it’s the former, but I’m beginning to suspect it’s the latter.

It’s becoming clear that I’ve been traveling with too much stuff for years. And it’s not just limited to things stuffed into a suitcase. One of the most profound “signs from God” I’ve encountered along my path is the one at the airport that reads, Please Check Baggage. It reminds me that weighing myself down with lots of baggage is always optional. Ouch!

Traveling light makes a lot of sense on so many levels. We often find ourselves toting around a lot of personal baggage that makes day-to-day life unnecessarily burdensome.

I can remember one family reunion in particular where everyone showed up carrying a quarter century of “excess baggage” filled with years of resentment and unresolved family conflict. One of my favorite quotes is, “Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” It’s also like poisoning our relationships and still expecting them to thrive.

And that includes the most important relationship with have – the one with ourselves. There’s no reason to continually pummel ourselves with what ifs, should-have-beens or why-mes either. In truth, that metaphorical $25 surcharge is a bargain when you factor in the potential cost of destructive self-sabotage.

Baggage is the past all wrapped up for us in an unpleasant-surprise package. Leaving the past behind us, with all its pain and old wounds is not only good for the soul, but the best way to script the happily-ever-after we’re all looking for.

_Linda M. Potter is a licensed spiritual counselor, popular speaker, published author and the Managing Editor of BellaSpark magazine. Her book, If Only God Would Give Me a Sign! is due out in March of 2011. <lindampotter@comcast.net>, www.lindampotter.com..