Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,
And smile, smile, smile.
While you’ve a lucifer to light your fag,
Smile, boy, that’s the style.
What’s the use of worrying?
It never was worthwhile.
So, pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile.
What’s your reaction to those words?
They fill me with unease. They seem to embrace the British mentality of putting on a brave face and making the best of things with a stiff upper lip. I’m not at all sure that’s healthy; it seems more like denial to me.
The trouble with packing up your troubles is that they can so easily become “baggage.” We come into new relationships, whether work-related, social or romantic, bringing our past experiences with us. When these experiences are negative, they can poison our new relationships.
I recently attended a workshop on resilience. After the past eighteen months, we have all needed resilience.
One definition from a fellow participant was resilience is the unpacking of one’s baggage and using those experiences positively. I found that idea interesting. In a sermon I listened to on Sunday, the related idea was introduced that our pain can be transformed into “treasure,” if treated in the right way.
I think there are two ways of unpacking that baggage and I think it depends on whether we have our old kit bag, or whether we have “The Luggage.” The Luggage is a character invented by author Terry Pratchett and introduced in his Discworld novels. It is a trunk made of sapient pearwood which faithfully follows its owner around on hundreds of little legs. Among its many interesting properties, I love the fact that you can always find what you need inside it and, when you throw into it your dirty laundry, what comes out is clean, dry and ironed clothes, smelling faintly of lavender. If you needed a diamond ring, or a mountain of gold, you would also find it inside.
I believe our negative experiences in life can be turned into “treasures,” if we let them. How else do we learn compassion, understanding and wisdom? It always takes time; we must always pack pain away for a time while we try to cope with everyday life but, when we eventually unpack, we might see those experiences differently.
I don’t want to make light of grief, hardship, pain and betrayal – these damage us and take time to heal. Our scars, however, can be either viewed as disfiguring or as badges of honour.
How much time does it take for our baggage to be transformed into treasure? Well, a diamond takes between one and three billion years to form naturally. An identical diamond can be made in a lab in three weeks.
Not many of us have luggage made of sapient pearwood, but we do have tools to transform our pain. I’m not sure it can be done in three weeks but hopefully it won’t take three billion years.
A Moodscope member.