Although I strive to be fully present, most of the time I have a hard time focusing at church. I will get distracted by something and inevitably a couple of minutes will go by and I’ll snap back, sometimes at the exact right moment.
We all bring baggage to our encounters. We don’t need to unpack our baggage in the encounter.
The deacon shared this and right away I felt the sting – the sting that happens when someone says something you know is helpful and meaningful but hits home a bit too closely. This insight spoke to a part of authenticity I’ve been wrestling with – unpacking my baggage.
I’ve identified and worked through a lot of it and some weigh me down, but some set me free. I used to look at baggage as garbage. It isn’t.
Baggage only looks like garbage when it’s being looked at through the lens of shame. This was a key shift for me and now I’m able to focus more on the unpacking part. Unpacking is how baggage shows up in interactions. At times I’ll overthink scenarios and what this looks like in a conversation is me asking those questions that are reasonable, but probably not necessary and stress people out.
What the deacon said cut to the core of my current efforts – figuring out situations when it’s safe or useful to unpack a bit or when it’s better to work through it some more on my own. With attention, this is possible and can look like look like prayer, therapy, and discussions with a loved one. Without it, I find my baggage unpacks itself. It’s the quick or impatient response or assuming the worst with someone’s intentions, you know the times when after a conversation it’s a palm on the forehead. It can also just be the times I didn’t want to share what I shared at that time. Too many interactions without attention can be harmful and even transfer issues to another person.
Our baggage is not all the same and it isn’t all of equal weight, but something I think is relatable for everyone is that unpacking process.
As I strive to pay attention to each moment, each emotion, each interaction, I remind myself – baggage can be carried, it is a part of me and there can be value in it, but it doesn’t need to be unpacked in every encounter. I pray all who read this have outlets and people with which to do this. For me, when I don’t know what to do, I put myself in places like the mass I went to – places where God and others can help me snap back and focus on what’s true.
Even if I’m having a hard time paying attention.