Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I will find peace.”
Spirit says, “Find peace, and everything will fall into place.”
— Marianne Williamson
Picture yourself at a busy airport. You arrive to take a two week trip with a group of friends. As you stand in line, you notice that although you will all go on the same trip for the same amount of time, the amount of baggage you carry varies wildly. There are those who take nothing more than a “carry on” for the entire two weeks. There are those who take a moderate amount of baggage. And then, there is THAT GIRL, your fellow traveler who checks two huge bags, each of which exceeds the weight limit. She carries both a large purse and a carry on, and convinces the baggage minimalist among you to add another of her bags as a second carry on.
Now picture the baggage as the emotional cargo piled upon us by our life experiences, personality, parents, siblings, friends, extended family, etc. There are some of us who are fortunate enough to be baggage minimalists, but some are like our friend in the airport, who carries more baggage than the average pack mule could handle.
Everyone has emotional baggage. In my experience we take that baggage into every aspect our lives, including Alzheimer’s caregiving, and it determines who we are as caregivers. Are you angry and bitter about your life experiences, storing up the real and perceived wrongs committed against you as if they were buried treasure? This hoarding of emotional baggage manifests itself in every aspect of a caregiver’s journey — martyrdom, verbal or physical abuse of your loved one with Alzheimer’s, assuaging your guilt through angry diatribes to other family members and paid caregivers, and a host of other destructive choices.
Contrast this with the emotional baggage minimalists. They live in the moment, take life as it comes and look for ways to find joy and peace, even in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances.
In the 1986 film, The Mission, Robert DeNiro’s character, Rodrigo Mendoza, kills his younger brother in a duel after finding him in bed with Mendoza’s fiance. Thus begins his downward spiral into anger, depression and guilt. As penance for his crime Mendoza must haul to a remote mountain village a massive burden, which includes the huge weight (literally and figuratively) of his dead brother’s armor and sword. At the end of the grueling journey, we watch as his burden is cut and tumbles down the mountain away from Mendoza. However, we understand that the physical burden is not the only thing being cut. Mendoza’s guilt, anger, and bitterness fall down the mountain, too, freeing him from the prison of emotional baggage his life had become.
This is your choice as a caregiver. You can choose to carry the dead weight of guilt, anger, and bitterness on your back throughout your journey, or you can cut it away, forgive yourself and those who have wronged you, and choose every day to live in joy and peace.
Make the choice to be a baggage minimalist.