How to Stop Carrying Generational Baggage Around…

I was talking to a friend of mine about our generation and how things are different as you prepare to be an empty nester.  For one, I was saying why didn’t anyone tell us this time was going to be so difficult?

The next thing I knew, we went full-scale down the rabbit hole of things we never talked about, like at all, during our generation and it got me to thinking.

How do we stop carrying this generational baggage around?

So I started thinking about my grandparents, and what it was like 100 years ago, honestly, because my grandfather is 93 years old.  Living through World War 2, and all that entailed, you would honestly have a different outlook on life.

I have to remember that they would have gotten news much later, not a real system of information back then.  And they only talked about things at the dinner table or after dinner as there were chores, and lots of them.  Most likely, the children were told to be seen and not heard…from what I remember my grandmother saying.

So then enters the children born after that, and the memories of growing up like that, but now we have Woodstock and all kinds of revolutions and realizations, being raised by parents who still believed in being seen, not heard.  Hmmm.  And finally, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act is passed, protecting the voting rights of not just SOME people, but all people, including people of color because up until then, Black voters were denied this right…even though in 1962 all states finally let Native Americans vote (it started in 1924…but you know, there’s always that one state). 

To be very clear, I did not know the connections I was making about all this until I started talking to my friend and decided to do this research.  Guess what your parents’ generation was called if they were born in the 40’s??  The Silent Generation.  Wow.  Okay, so after that we have the 50’s known as the Baby Boom Generation, which I have heard before.

Then comes my generation…the 70’s or perhaps early 80’s kids.  We have news faster, information thrown at us, and parents who were raised on not talking about things or maybe just doing things, but not discussing.  We saw 911 happen in our lifetime and things we never thought would happen.

What are you carrying around from all those who came before you?

This quote comes from a movie made in 2009 called “Up in the Air”:

How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Now … I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office, and then you move into the people that you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your cousins, your aunts, your uncles, your brothers, your sisters, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend or your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack … Feel the weight of that bag. Make no mistake — your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. Do you feel the straps cutting into your shoulders? All those negotiations and arguments, and secrets and compromises. You don’t need to carry all that weight. Why don’t you set that bag down?

  1. Unpack the guilt from these people.  Know this.  Everyone experiences guilt.  I have this one piece that haunts me from something my kid said.  Honestly, I wish I could change that.  I can’t and NEVER will because this isn’t a movie.  I don’t have a time machine, a magic rewind remote control or a hot tub that takes me back.  Punishing yourself over and over will not make it right so right not, place your feet on the floor.  Visualize that guilt and say I forgive you for doing what you needed to do right then, and I release you.  It is easy to say you would have done different, but you must know in that moment, you did the best you could.
  2. Unpack the shame these people have piled on.  If you have had to hide your true self, you may feel shame.  If you have been told something you did or didn’t do wasn’t right, you might have felt shame.  If you need to replay it one more time, all you are doing is reliving it.  You can write it down, tell that moment you forgive who you were in that moment, then in a safe area, light that shit on fire (fire pit nights have new meaning).
  3. Unpack and launder the regret.  That timeshare.  That date.  That fight.  The words you said.  We have learned something from it, so wash it off, literally, get in the shower or bath, think about the part of regret coming off, and only the lesson sticking, and move on.  Remember that everyone lives with this, but only in the present moment can we do something about it, so decide to live differently and learn from your mistakes.
  4. Put away the stress and worry.  After Gen X and Y were born, information came at such a rapid pace that it is no wonder more people are stressed out.  Have anxiety.  Step away from the news.  Put down your phones.  It does not mean that you can’t pick them up later, but put them away for a time and then tell yourself that you will set reminders to walk, breathe, and step away.  Get outside in nature and pencil in time to unwind.  Message a friend for a coffee date, but know this.  Some of the things we worry about right now, next year you will not even remember.
  5. Unpack anything holding you back.  Their plans are not your plans.  Your plans are not theirs.  This is a different time and again, you are doing the best you can.  Even if it doesn’t feel like it.  Other people have expectations that are NOT what you wanted for your life.  Can you imagine constantly berating someone for being a better person?  Changing?  Doing something out of the norm because it felt like what they needed to do in order to love a better life?  No.  Parenting is hard.  You love your children and want the best for them no matter how you were raised.  Tell people who have different expectations for you that you love them, respect them, but you are leading your life as best you see fit.  It doesn’t mean don’t listen to advice, but if you didn’t ask for advice and are constantly getting told things that should have been done in a different manner, remind the person that just because they’d do it that way doesn’t mean you have to.  You are learning.

This last bit of advice is to talk to people.  Get therapy, help, yoga, workout or join a support group if things are constantly in your mind.  Self-compassion is what we all need.  If journaling is your thing, I have a self-care journal here you might like.  If that is not your thing, but you find yourself in need of support, come find us here.

There is no one way forward…there are many ways.  But the best way is the one in which you feel most comfortable and happy.  Just because it HAS been done this way or is done a certain way doesn’t mean you have to do it that way my friends.  This is your life.  Secure your baggage and unpack it.  Remind yourself it doesn’t have to be passed on from everyone in your family forever.  Set that bag down.

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