Country artists don’t get nearly enough credit for their candid lyrics about real-life scenarios. No, I’m not talking about “Red Solo Cup”; I’m thinking along the lines of Miranda Lambert’s song, “Baggage Claim”:
It kinda makes it hard to get a good grip
I drop your troubles off at the conveyor belt,
I’ll hand you a ticket to go get it yourself
At the baggage claim, you got a lot of luggage in your name
When you hit the ground, check the lost and found
Maybe you’re turned off by country pop lyrics that sound like any ol’ drunk at the bar in town could have written down on a beer-stained napkin. True, there’s a lot of superficial crap out there in all genres, but I’ve discovered some lyrics worth paying attention to. After all, Lambert’s “Baggage Claim”–a mainstream country pop song–is about as relatable as it gets, regardless of whether you drive a pick-up or take the subway.
Alas, this post isn’t about country music. Personally, I prefer folk and Americana anyway. It’s about what Miranda is really saying under that country twang. It’s about baggage.
Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows this reference well. We accumulate a lot of crap over the years–mostly garbage. Emotional garbage. When we have a bad experience, it’s natural to build a fortress around ourselves and not let anyone in. For years I built a metaphorical medieval castle complete with a moat and dragon to protect my heart. No one was getting inside–“yeah, baby, that’s your skin, don’t let anyone under there.” And I didn’t. In addition to the moat and dragon, I warded any potential suitors off with my propensity to violent alcoholic blackouts.
I’m four months sober now, but my castle and my dragon and my armor and my tequila bottle still sometimes haunt me and follow me around like the chains on the ghost of Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol.
So, how do we sever the chains of our past?
There’s obviously no simple answer for this one. But like all that ails us, the first thing to do is to recognize what you’re dragging behind you and try like hell not to let it weigh you down for too long or worse yet, let it affect your partner. This is called owning your baggage. You’ve got to claim it. There’s no reason to be ashamed that we’ve been hurt and damaged. If you choose to deny how the past affects your present, though, I can pretty much guarantee no one’s going to pick you up in the purgatory that is the Lost and Found–that you’ve got to sort through on your own.
But the lost can be found again. We heal, we really do. We put ourselves back on the conveyer belt and some way, some how, the universe delivers us to where we need to be.
The dangers of not claiming our baggage and unpacking our suitcases can be far reaching. If you put that baggage in the back of your closet and don’t sort through it, especially the dirty, ugly stuff, it will become the chains and lock boxes of Jacob Marley and you will struggle for much longer than necessary–I’ve tried it.
I think it is safe to say that we’ve all been hurt. We’ve been disillusioned, we’ve been closed off to love, we’ve found it nearly impossible to trust. (And probably a lot easier to throw back bottles of Patron, from personal experience.)
But you can heal and self-repair and learn how to love yourself if you choose to. And then when that someone comes along and makes you throw out all your rules, and the garbage in your suitcase, you try again for the simple fact that if we’re not here to love each other, we’re not really even here at all.
Self-repair or self-destruct. Life is full of these beautiful little opportunities. What’s your choice going to be? I’ve made mine. I’ve claimed my baggage. And although it still may persist in small ways that I can’t always leave behind, at least I carry it around proudly in my Michael Kors purse and it doesn’t seem so ugly and scary anymore.