Don’t allow “Brain Drain”…Let go of the baggage.


So many people I know are caught up not only in trying to find out who made them stressed and miserable but also in storing the information and cataloging it for future use. I call this “baggage handling” because after a while, we have so much past misery that we need suitcases to put them in. We may even need a Sherpa to carry them.

My grandmother Francesca could have been the curator of the Smithsonian. She was amazing at recalling past history (mostly miserable). My mother was pretty good at storing old stuff too. I inherited some of it, but have been able to process it differently through some time in therapy and my sense of humor.

It is important to differentiate between what you need to hang on to and what to let go of. Many individuals have been traumatized severely from incidents that occurred in the past. History has taught us that if we don’t recall and heal the injustices, it becomes more difficult to heal them. Therefore, it is healthy to identify what has caused you pain, to gain insight, and, it is hoped, to move forward.

This is not always an easy task, for those who have been emotionally wounded often suffer physically. For example, parts of the brain seem to function differently in those who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. We can no longer separate the mind from the body; one is witness to the other. There are many wonderful therapists who can help to heal the past and allow it to become a path to a more resilient future.

On the other hand, some baggage shouldn’t even go into the overnight case. So many situations are just a brain drain. I often ask people to write down their stressors, and invariably someone will tell me how upset they get when a co-worker takes extra time at lunch. One woman went on and on about how awful this was. I asked her how long she had been aggravated about this situation and she responded, “Twenty years.” So for twenty years she had been storing this nugget of misery without trying to find a solution.

She also had the need to be a martyr. She felt it was no use to try to do anything, since no one seemed to care that she was being taken advantage of. So now we have a great blend—a martyr with baggage.

Once we have a lot of baggage, navigating life becomes harder and harder. The emotions of resentment, anger and feeling neglected make it difficult to enjoy life to the fullest. Try to make a list of what you’ve been storing and see if you can’t make a point of letting go of what will never change. The freedom you will obtain is well worth the effort. You will no longer be a slave to your mind.

 

They stood out from the crowd and they made me who I am today.


I was fortunate to grow up with a lot of “characters”. Individuals who stood out from the crowd, who saw things from unique perspectives, and who dared to look and act differently. In essence they behaved eccentrically. I’m drawn to people who not only break the mold, they pulverize it into tiny pieces.

I’m sure this started for me when I was a kid. At a very young age, I’d be sitting at the table in the kitchen in my parent’s house, and I’d watch this strange group of characters parading in and out of the house all the time. It was truly a circus: There was a man who lived across the street from us, who had been a sailor in the English Navy. He was Sicilian and spoke Sicilian with a limey accent. I would visit him and his parrot that also spoke Sicilian with the same accent. Most of his life was spent living on a houseboat with his two daughters. He would often walk around the neighborhood with the parrot on his shoulder.

One of his daughters Peppi, who was about sixteen, took me to my ballet classes. She too was a character. She loved my mother, who was very unique to say the least. Her visits often came around midnight since she knew my mother was a poor sleeper. One night, they woke me up with their laughter and I found the two of them scrubbing the kitchen floor with brushes they had tied to the bottom of their feet. They were also singing arias from the “ Barber of Seville”. Peppi became so enamored of dancing that she chose to become a Flamenco dancer, adopting all things Spanish even calling her Chihuahua Pepito. She used to carry him in a big handbag to scare any malicious people away. He understood Spanish and as soon as she called his name he would poke his head out, snarl and look vicious. He always reminded me of a cartoon, but you didn’t mess with Pepito.

Then there was Mrs. Burke, who lived on the third floor of our house. She was a nurse, and could easily have been cast in a horror flick. She’d skulk around holding her black nurses bag. My imagination would go berserk imaging all kinds of nefarious contents. Every time we’d ask her how her day went, she’d say, “Well, the patient died”. It seemed that no one she took care of lived.

My Aunt Ignatizia was always wandering around talking to herself. Whenever she heard a loud noise she would turn to my grandmother and ask her if her stomach was bothering her. I was often trying to smother my laughter.

Some of the above individuals would probably be medicated today for what might be perceived as a “condition of sorts”. Thank God, I got to be with them. They helped shape my life and my career.