Hey! That's My Baggage..... (No, it's mine!)

I was talking to my sister the other day, and she was reminiscing about our sibling therapy sessions last summer. The extraordinarily rainy weather last summer gave us a lot of time to sit around and talk. Many revelations came to light. There were things we needed to say to the other, things that we never truly discussed as two mature adults. It's strange to think that we've never had these discussions before. Did you know that our emotional baggage doesn't magically disappear because we are older and wiser? We just get used to carrying it to the point where we forget it is even there. 


My sister and I chose two completely different paths in life. I had gone onto college after high school graduation.  Her path was a tad (way more) bumpier than mine.  After some (many) really questionable decisions she made during her teen years, she found herself pregnant and married at 20-years-old. I was 11 or 12-years-old at the time. I remember her Thanksgiving-ish wedding very clearly. I was a chunky, red-headed, freckle-faced kid in a harvest gold satin junior bridesmaid dress. It was typically hideous. The wedding was at a protestant church and the reception at some organization's meeting hall that my dad and my sister had to go clean the next day. My sister and her new husband had a short honeymoon in the mountains and returned home. 


Right after they got home, the came to our parent's house to open their wedding gifts. My neighborhood friend was at the house and all of us sat there watching them open gifts. It was the last time my sister, and probably me, saw my 11-year-old friend alive.


She died the next week in an accident that was totally preventable, had she listened to her parents.  She was building an underground fort with some other neighborhood children, and it collapsed, trapping her underground. It was horrific and very tragic.  Her dad had found the first underground fort the kids were building on their land in the woods, made them fill it in and told them not to do it again. They didn't listen.


We lived on a little dirt road with six houses in rural New England. My grandma. grandpa and aunt lived across the street from us in a little house and there were four other families in our little neighborhood, all of whom had children. Sometimes we all played together, and sometimes we didn't. The boys were stupid back then and could be ugly to us girls. At the time, I wasn't part of the inner circle who knew about this fort; therefore, I was not included in the building of it (thank God). 


This tragedy happened in the morning before school. At the time, the junior high and senior high were sharing a school until another could be built. High school went in the morning and us junior high kids went in the afternoon. As best as I can remember, I was hanging out at home, doing I can't remember what, waiting to go to school when one of the neighborhood boys came running up the road telling me they needed help. My dad had his own woodworking shop that he ran on the bottom floor of our home. A bunch of his employees headed down to the woods to help. I also ended up down there with another neighborhood friend. I remember watching them madly digging, and then one of the men digging told us to go call her mother. My nine-year-old friend did that. I can still hear the tone of her voice as she spoke to the mom, her voice not really reflecting the horror of the situation (we were in shock, I think) telling her what was going on, while this nine-year old's dad, who had very bad cancer was digging his heart out, praying there was some kind of air pocket in the ground.  Thankfully, the police arrived before the mother and stopped her from going down to the site.  I can't remember when her father showed up as he had been at work. 


I honestly don't remember going back to my house, or when my sister arrived at our house, or if my sister was there already but eventually, she was there. My dad, I'm sure was down in the woods helping but eventually all the men came back after it was over. My mom had been at work but came home. I can't remember if she came home because it was her lunch hour or because she felt she needed to come home and be with me. I remember her being there... and then, she went back to work that afternoon, and left me at home with my sister.  


I accepted my mom's actions for what they were.  I was old enough to know that she did not have to go back to work. Her boss would have undoubtedly been okay with her being with me. We lived in a very small town and by then, everyone probably knew what had happened and who was involved. 


I had learned early on that my parents were busy, had two older, more attention-needing children who found trouble, therefore, I was not going follow in my siblings' footsteps. I was going to stay out of trouble and survive by only relying on myself. That is exactly what I believe I did as a teenager. There is no doubt in my heart that my mom loved me. She really loved us all very much. However, there was a lot of stress in our home plus the outward appearance of our family to the community was very important to my mom. It was implied that we never make waves that could cause embarrassing gossip because how would that look?


I believe it's why I never told her I had been molested by a distant male relative connected to her side of the family. Because if I had told her, and she did nothing, I knew in my heart that would be far more devastating to me than just living with it in silence. 


So, mom went back to work, and I spent the afternoon at the home of the friend who called that poor girl's mom. Her dad had been through the wringer, trying to save that girl, his body suffering with cancer. We all sat and talk about it. I think being there was very helpful. I was able to process it with adults there.  The next day we all went back to school. I think I answered questions and walked around in a daze. Later that week, I went to the wake and funeral, her dad hugged me and cried... and I didn't cry. I remember feeling bad about this.  At some previous point in my life, I was sobbing hard at the gravesite of my eight-year-old cousin who died in a car accident and my mom pulled me away from the gravesite and kept telling me to hush. I learned that day that you can't even cry at a funeral. I guess I took that to heart. 


I now understand, 50 years later, that some people cannot deal with situations that have difficult and extreme emotions. That was my mother. She came across as this 'strong' (there is that word again.... see previous blog post) woman but she wasn't. When the emotional going got tough, she would bail, if she could. 


The one thing I never, ever thought of in 50 years was how that day impacted my sister. I didn't know, until last summer.  I don't randomly think about that day. I only do when I get reminded of it somehow by a person or another event that triggers the memory of that day.  It happened, I lived through it, got through it and moved on. 


My sister was still, to this day, devasted because my mom went back to work that day, instead of sticking around to comfort me and make sure I was okay. She is still saying today "who DOES that???"  You know who? Someone who can't handle extreme emotion. She said she needed to grieve for me, for the fact that even though I was given 'stuff' as a child, I had to pretty much rely on myself or my grandparents somewhat. She had tremendous guilt about how I was raised as an afterthought because she felt that she could have been a better sister to me and should have stepped in and substituted when mom and dad tapped out. She forgot that she actually did do that, on many occasions. 


This event and her struggle with it came out in a therapy session she went to, not ever thinking that this was something that needed to be addressed.  She told me about it while we were having a cup of tea at her kitchen table last summer. I'm a strong believer that a cup of tea solves many woes. I was truly stunned by her confession of guilt, because in my mind, she was there and that was all she could do. She did what any sister would do, just be there if I needed her. Also, I reminded her of one thing. Just because our parents dropped the ball, that didn't mean it was her responsibility to pick it up. I was not her child. I think even though she knew that in her head, she needed to hear that in her heart, and believe it.


This was a very long story, and another about death, so I'm sorry about that.  


Now that we've started a new year and some of us are making changes to improve our over-all health, I think it's important to point out that any emotional baggage you are carrying around now and are ignoring, is not going to go away.  You are just going to get used to carrying it around so it will seem to be gone. You may think it is the most trivial thing, that is embarrassing to admit. It isn't. Your baggage is yours, and it doesn't matter how it impacts you or how anyone else sees it. It happened to you, so your perspective is unique. What matters is that it does impact you.  


What also matters is that we may be using food to stuff it down, so we don't have to deal with it. Yeah, that happens. Food can also be used for self-medication.  Believe me, I know... 


My sister and I lived through the same event but came out of it with very different emotional baggage about the whole thing. What is interesting is that she seemed to be far more devastated by what happened to me than I was. I am (to this day) far more upset about my mother telling me to hush at my cousin's gravesite than my mother going back to work that day. 


Are you carrying around baggage you need to unpack and put away for good? I know I still am.....


How about we find a way to unpack at least SOME of our baggage for good? Lighten our load this year?


It's day 15. I lost 0.8 pounds last week (I'm pouting because I wish it was more, but I did have extraordinary eating events last week). 


(photo courtesy of Havva Yilmaz)








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7th Decade Redhead
7th Decade Redhead

I'm 60+ years old female retiree who is finally figuring out why she's been struggling with losing weight her whole life. I want to share the lessons I learned so others can help themselves with their own weight loss struggles earlier in their lives.

60 Pounds by 60 Years
60 Pounds by 60 Years

My final weight loss attempt after 40 years of different diet failures. No shakes, no supplements, no surgery, no crazy food, no purchased meal plans, no fasting. Creating a healthier relationship with food and facing the painful truth about my relationship surrounding food. No BS, just common sense. And it worked.

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