Do You Want to Check that Bag?

So, I have one of the coolest things I own in my office and I look at it everyday.   It’s an old steamer trunk (a real one…not a knock-off from Hobby Lobby) that I got a couple of years ago.  The guy that sold it to me for just a few bucks said it was ugly and he just wanted it out of his garage.  (By the way, every time I say ‘bucks’, I can hear Michael Scott telling Pam it’s not ladylike). I thought I could paint it really funky and it’d be a neat piece in my basement.  Then I started doing some research on it, and come to find out, it’s an oldie that was most likely used by immigrants coming to America in the early 20th century like my grandpa and his family did.  How cool is that?

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The manifest from my family’s voyage.  My son and I also looked it up on Ellis Island when we visited NYC.

We started moving my son and his girlfriend into their apartment yesterday (luckily, it was from a basement with stairs to a top floor apartment with stairs…just sayin’) and if I never see a cardboard box again, I’ll be thrilled.  Another by the way:  there was a dolly in the U-Haul that we had to park a ways away since the apartment house sets back behind a big grassy area.  Being someone who likes to make work easier, I asked why we weren’t using it.  My boy said, “Ma, we don’t need it”  while he was mopping sweat from his brow and panting like a dog.  Anyhoot, when he was carrying a load, I got the damn dolly out, chucked the heaviest item on it, and scooted it up to the stairs, saving more than half the work.  You may insert an eye roll here.

So, this morning I was sitting at my laptop doing some very important things (scrolling through Facebook while watching Rocketman for the 100th time) and started thinking about baggage.  That’s a word we hear so much, isn’t it?  How everyone has ‘baggage’ from past relationships, their childhood, their high school years, what have you.  When I look at my trunk, I always wonder what baggage was in it.  Baby clothes for an infant that was going to be born in America?  Old quilts from relatives the immigrants won’t see anymore?  Books in their native language so they will never have to stop reading?  Food especially canned for the trip so they’ll have something to eat while seeking work?

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I guess I’ve been pondering this a bit more these past couple of weeks because I’ve reconnected with a high school buddy and we’ve been talking pretty much non-stop.  And here’s the thing, I know that no matter what, my baggage, and his baggage, is going to play a role into whether or not this goes anyplace at all.

How do you learn to trust someone again after so many others have betrayed you?  I trusted my psychologist with my life.  Literally.  And he used that trust, manipulated it into something cruel, and made me feel a horrible sense of shame and guilt even though I was another one of his victims.  Hubby 3 was not only my spouse, but I can honestly say he was the best friend I’ve ever had.  Every single day he would tell me how happy he was and how much he loved me.  And then he walked out on me Christmas day after our 10th anniversary.  J was the one person I trusted every single secret I’ve ever had with.  I opened up to him more than anyone else, and he took so many of my words and confessions and then used them against me.  He threatened so many things, one of them being my job.

So tell me.  How do you come back from that?  Yes, I understand that no one should pay the price for someone elses’ mistakes, but let me know how that works.   Seriously.  Because once you’ve been ‘burned’, the scars are so deep and the baggage packed so well, that just ‘getting rid of it’ is something hard to do.  OK…I’ll just do what some self-helpers  recommend:  jot all of this stuff down, tear up the paper, and then flush it down the crapper.  Wow.  Works like a charm.  All of those decades of being hurt and used are miraculously gone  Yea!

Hmmmm.  No.  Everyone talks about how hard it is to rebuild trust in a person that’s wronged you.  But, our ‘baggage’ makes it hard to actually trust anyone.  I don’t care how many times someone says, “Kristi, you can trust me.”  Okey-dokey.  Haven’t heard those words before.  Haven’t been to that shitty rodeo.  Face it, no one is going to say:  “Look, I’m going to be really nice to you for a while and get you believing that this is going to be great.  And then I’m going to fuck you over, use you, tear you down after building you up, make you believe you deserve no better, and then when I’m done toying with you, I’ll find someone else that I may actually be good too…you know…for fun.”

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Wouldn’t it be nice if people came with warning labels?  “WARNING!  Good looking guy, out for a hook up, likes to sweet talk until he gets in your knickers, but cooks great.”  Well hells bells (my grandpa used to love saying that…I just had to use it at least once in a post), at least I know what I’m in for.  And for piss sakes, let’s not even imagine what my label would look like…let’s just assume it would have a lot of skulls and crossbones on it.

OK, so besides trust, what else is in my trunk (steamer…not booty)?  Respect is a biggie.  I hate how that word is used so easily.  “Hey…that guy didn’t give me my fries…he disrespected me.”  Welllllll…maybe if you hadn’t screamed into the mike at the drive through while calling him a douche bag when the audio was still on, you would have gotten your freaking fries.  As my ma says :  “Think, man!”

Respect is more than that to me; actually it’s more than that period.  True respect is believing a person to be of value because of qualities they have…because of who they are and what they’ve done that’s admirable.  I think a problem I have (among a myriad of many) is ‘giving’ respect to people that actually haven’t earned it yet.  Just assuming this person is admirable because of this and this and this.  “Oh…you’re a CEO!  You must be a great person and I have such respect for you!”  (Actually, they are a blithering imbecile, but they got one terrific office).

I learned very early on in my teaching career that you can’t expect attention and control in a classroom without earning respect first.  I learned you can’t expect your child to respect you unless you have shown them you deserve it.  “But, Kristi…our kids should respect us no matter what!”  OK, kiddies…respect your parents who are drug dealers and beat you at night when you need fed.  Just sayin.  See what I mean?  Once, an elementary teacher told me she was so tired at screaming at her class all day.  Huh?  When I looked gobsmacked, she said, “Damn, with college kids you must do that a lot.”  Nope.  Never.  I’ve never screamed at my son, never at my rambunctious elementary/jr high/high school students, and never in my college classroom.  If I can’t talk in my normal tone of voice and be listened too, I have a lot of work to do in terms of earning respect.

What about kindness?  First 6 months:  “Hey, sweetie…anything you want.”  “Love you baby, I’m behind you all the way.”  “Hon…of course you can have your wonderful, kind, loving family over for the holidays…your family is my family.”  Then, let’s fast forward a couple of years:  “Kristi, what the hell are you doing spending so much money on that?”  “Kristi, if you think I’m going to spend another holiday with your God forsaken family, you’re nuttier than I thought.”  (Actually, I probably am).  Kindness for some is almost like a bait and switch:  turn it on in the beginning so you ooze honey, and then pull it away until it’s gone.  Blech.

And love?  “Hey baby…I love you more than anything!  You took care of my dying mom, helped me raise my daughter through adolescence, and pretty much provided for my every whim with no questions asked.  Oh, I’m leaving tomorrow.”  Or, “Kristi, you weren’t my first, but you’re going to be my last (bloggers note:I think this came from Pinterest), and you’ve done more for me than anyone else in my life.  Oh, by the way, I’m going to cheat on you this weekend…just wanted you to have a heads up.”  So gee, I wonder why hearing ‘I love you’ is hard for me to accept.

I guess it comes down to this:  I know I have baggage…a lot of it.  A steamer trunk full.  And I know that no matter what I do to unpack it and get it put away elsewhere, there will still be some left at the bottom.  But I also know that everyone has a trunk.  How can we not?  Unless we’ve lived like Pollyanna, it’s gonna happen.  So, someone is going to have to work a bit more hard in gaining my trust.  Earning my respect.  Helping me realize their kindness is genuine. Opening my heart.  Actually though, that may be what I’ve always done wrong in the past…given these things away too quickly before realizing the true value of them first.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

Author: Kristi

Just a bipolar Professor working to end the stigma of mental illness.

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