Recently I’ve been thinking about the baggage I had to reveal in my current relationship. Some of it came out when we were technically not together; some of it only emerged as we navigated our wants and needs in a relationship. But years later (and still in that relationship), it almost seems like that baggage doesn’t matter.
Of course that’s not true, because our past experiences and traumas and tragedies have a permanent place in our lives. They are the scar tissue of a wound too deep to disappear completely, but everything around it still functions well. Our pasts do not define us, they shape us. My pain from over a decade ago does not hold me hostage but exists in a part of me that is rarely at the surface. The tragedies we go through in life change our perspectives. Maybe they make us more aware, maybe they make us more vulnerable, maybe they make us more paranoid, or maybe they make us change our lives in a significant or small way. But like years, our experiences come in seasons and phases.
The pain and trauma stays at the surface as long as is necessary. That’s the start of healing. That’s the part where we hurt fully, 100%, because sometimes that’s how it needs to happen. “The only way out is through” has always resonated with me. I’m a believer of feeling whatever you are feeling without justifying it or explaining it or trying to do away with it before you can try to understand it. Sometimes we need to burst for a minute before we can think.
I didn’t always believe that, because the foggy part after “the feeling” lasted years as well. That’s the part where you are at a standstill, where you’re not going backward but you’re also not going forward, where there is still as much pain as there isn’t, but life is moving along. The next part is the shift — the part where it doesn’t hurt so much, doesn’t sting, and doesn’t break you. You may not be “healed,” per se, but you are better. That came for me some more years later in my current relationship.
He was the blessing that showed me what it means to love and be loved. He walked with me through whatever pain I still had without forcing me to change. He attempted to understand how I could still have these wounds after all these years but never made me feel bad for the fact that he cannot empathize. He stood by me as I stumbled through the rest of my healing, as I looked inward to what needed to change, as I slipped up and took a couple steps back. He cheered me on, both loudly when I needed it and softly when things were not easy.
The pain and trauma that we have never really go away. They never cease to exist. It is never erased from our diaries, our old journals, or our old poems. You can still hear the hurt on a dark night, during a bad week, in the quietness that happens when I’m lost in my own head.
The thing that reminds me to look up now is remembering. I remember how unbearable some nights were. How could I have hurt so badly that young? I remember how lost I felt on many days that eventually stretched into years. I remember not being able to see what I have now. How could anyone want to be a part of my confusing head? But that’s just it — if I’m only remembering it, then I have passed it.
The people we choose to let in romantically or platonically don’t heal us, don’t erase parts of us, don’t ignore us. They walk with us and listen. They gently show us how much we are worth. They see us. I don’t believe that another person could heal me. I don’t believe another person fills in any empty space or void that we have. I believe the people who love us stand by us as we fill in the gaps on our own. Many times, they see the strength in us that we choose to block out in a tough moment. They envision the future we can’t and help us to see it piece by piece. They hold us when the healing is hard, but they don’t do the healing for us.
Our baggage stops being baggage because it stops being something that we carry. It stops being something that slows us down, it stops being something that can wear us out. It just becomes a scar — albeit a nasty one — that will always live in a small corner of our souls. But we will always be building around it, because we are always growing. A soul is a resilient thing.