Bridesmaids and Baggage

So last weekend I finally watched the movie Bridesmaids.  My closest girl friends have been raving about it for ages, and when I announced that it had arrived from Netflix they wanted to get together and watch it.  Once again they repeated that it was an awesome, super funny movie and I would love it.

Bridesmaids was without a doubt the most terrifying psychological horror movie I have seen in ages.  I wept profusely through most of it, trying and probably failing to hide my tears from my friends.  It hit way, WAY too close to home.  Watching Kristen Wiig play out my deepest insecurities in a worst-case scenario setting was almost too much for me to watch.

See, I have been friends-dumped by women who I thought were my eternal besties more than once.  I’ve been there.  I’ve had to stand impotently by while the friends who shared my formative years met guys, got married, and, worst of all, found other girl friends and slowly forgot about me.  It’s more painful, deeper, longer-lasting pain, than breaking up with a guy.  It makes you believe you are inherently unlovable.

Of course I know that the intensity of those emotions I felt while watching Kristen Wiig experience everything that I fear most in life are seated in my truly crappy childhood interactions with my peers.  Yeah, duh, that’s where it comes from.  Obvious.  If I hadn’t experienced the uncontrolled emptiness of losing the people who I thought were closest to me over and over and over at an early age I might have just seen Bridesmaids as a hilarious comedy instead of a tragedy.  My baggage warped my viewing of the story.

Which brings me to my point.

I am a firm believer in the concept that we can never truly escape the wounds that are inflicted in our childhoods.  Those scars, be they from petty hurts or monumental tragedy, stay with us for our entire lives and shape how we view the world.  You don’t get over them.  They stick.

I was having a conversation about this with one of my close friends who is a “newer” friend (about three years) and she strongly disagreed with me.  I was surprised.  She was passionate about the fact that no, what happened to you in your childhood is in the past.  It’s important to get over it.  Whatever it takes to get over it, you have to do that and you have to move on.  And once you’ve moved on you have to leave all those things in the past where they belong.  Period.

I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this advice/belief system.  I know that this friend had some crap to deal with in her childhood, so it’s not like her belief is coming from a place of not knowing.  She seems very well-adjusted and happy with her life as it is right now.  True, she’s younger than me, hasn’t crossed over that strange and significant age of 35 (where, at least in my experience, everything started to change and slip).  She has her moments too and I don’t know what’s really going on in her head.

But it does make me think.

Does the past ever leave us or do we carry our scars for our whole lives?

I should qualify to say that I do think it’s possible, even imperative, to work through and get beyond the pain of our past.  I don’t walk around every day paranoid that my best friends will dump me and make new best friends.  Yes, I worry about it way in the back of my mind in a place that I can tune out 99% of the time.  Yes, occasionally I’ll watch a movie like Bridesmaids that hits way too many nerves.  But for the most part I don’t let that particular piece of baggage get in the way of everyday life.

But I know that friendship, jealousy, and self-worth are and probably always will be much more of a stumbling block for me than most other people.  That writing was on the wall a very long time ago.

Curing the mind of the unfairness of childhood wounds kind of feels like a simple matter of logic.  I know I’m being silly.  Healing the heart of the pain inflicted on a sensitive soul that was too young to handle disappointment and betrayal is another can or worms entirely.  I will always feel that pain, whether I want to or not.

So what do you think?  Can we check our baggage and leave it behind us without worrying or do we carry it with us always?


16 thoughts on “Bridesmaids and Baggage

  1. Ever notice what happens to a tree that is damaged when it is young? The tree will naturally heal around the wound, but it reshapes the way it grows forever. Our experience changes and shapes our view on the world. Later experiences may alter our perception of events, but they don’t wipe them out.

  2. I agree with you, I think we always carry it with us. Your friend’s determination that her past is behind her and that anything bad that happens is firmly relegated is just as much a reflection of her past as the opposite.

    I’m not one of these people who thinks that people don’t change. I think we all do, that life mellows us in some ways, strengthens us in others. Major events can shape us and change the course of our lives. Everything that happens to us adds up, like brush strokes on a canvas, to the finished product, except that we are never finished! And that’s one of the marvellous things about life, especially a life consciously lived.

    We make both conscious and unconscious decisions about how we live our lives but often decisions are foisted upon us by elements beyond our control. We can only do the best with what we have at any given moment.

    A harsh reading of your story is that you choose your ‘friends’ unwisely. A kinder one is that you’ve had bad luck. The real question to ask is can you identify some thought process, a decision, a pattern that is repeated in your relationships with these ghastly people who’ve been so mean to you? If so, can you endeavour to never repeat it again? This is the value of examining the past, rather than locking it away never to be thought of again.

    I spent years examining the trauma of my seven years of bullying. I turned it over, mulled it over, cried about it, talked about it (not much of the latter though, it was mostly an internal process) and by about ten years later, I’d done with it. But it’s always with me and totally affects how I am today. I believe that I am aware of this is healthy. It’s enough.

    • Good points. Of course one of the things that I forgot to include was that those friends who were really close to me but then drifted away didn’t necessarily do it deliberately. A couple I had big blow-outs with, yes. But the most painful splits for me were actually the ones where the friend involved wasn’t deliberately getting rid of me, they were just moving on without me. Like in Bridesmaids, Maya Rudolph’s character is just getting married, that’s all. It’s something wonderful for her life. She does the best she can. And there’s no rule that she’s never allowed to have another close friend ever.

      Maybe it’s the paradox of that situation that bothered me. People change, and as good as that is for them, it can be horribly painful for us.

  3. Scars are the road maps of our past. They serve to remind us of where we’ve been and how we became who we are now.

    It sounds to me, though, like you haven’t so much got a scar as a festering wound with exposed, raw nerves. It *is* possible to let go of the things that caused that wound and let it heal. Yes, it will leave a scar, but the pain will be gone, leaving just the memories.

    To quote from Kung Fu Panda 2, “Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that doesn’t make you who you are. It is the rest of your story, who you choose to be!”

  4. Since I can’t edit or delete my previous comment, disregard it and reply to this one instead:

    Scars are what we get when a wound heals. It sounds to me like what you’ve got is not a scar but a wound that is still open and raw. You might want to consider asking yourself what you stand to gain by holding on to these feelings of abandonment and rejection. It *is* possible to let go and heal. Then you *will* have a scar, but the pain will just be a memory.

    To quote from Kung Fu Panda 2, “Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that doesn’t make you who you are. It is the rest of your story, who you *choose* to be!”

    If I may be so bold as to suggest that you watch another movie … Kung Fu Panda 2 addresses this very topic – childhood wounds/scars and letting go/healing (or not letting go/not healing). You might not find it as funny or as poignant as I do; however, I would like to think that watching it would not be as harrowing an experience for you either.

    • Well, I wouldn’t say that it’s always a raw, open wound. The fact that I can write about those sorts of things without dissolving into a pile of snotty tears is a good indication that I’ve begun to move on. But it was all right back up in my face again as I watched Bridesmaids.

      Incidentally, I think this is why it’s so important for kids to have someone to look to for help and guidance, be it a parent or mentor, as they go through all of this initially. I think that would probably have made my life a lot easier, but my dad was gone, my mom had her own issues, I didn’t get along with my grandmother, and I don’t think anyone else noticed. But I’m sure your girls won’t have that problem. Go Daddy Jonathan! =D

  5. I don’t think we just leave our baggage behind. I do, however, think the load can get lighter. As the commenter above said, it is like a tree that grows around the damage inflicted. It shapes us, creates who we are. It is what we do with that pain, that experience, that makes the difference.

    I also know now to avoid watching the movie! 🙂

  6. Unfortunately, we can’t change the past, we can’t change other people, but we can change the way we react to them. This isn’t easy, but it is possible. You will learn to be philosophical in time, if you want to be! I realize that all my life, mistakes and good times alike, have lead me to where I am now. I had to get married 3 times that didn’t work out to find the one I really believe I can live with for the rest of my life. (yes, it would have been better to not have to go through 3 breakups, but its a lesson I had to learn the hard way!) And I’m ok with that now! (notice, I say now…I haven’t always been ok with that!) I can honestly say, I can look back and think of friends who have been in and out of my life and wonder how they are, but not feel like its a loss, and not feel I have to look them up on facebook! LOL! We all have our individual paths to follow in our lives, some people are there for a short while and others walk the whole route with us. I’m 62, so its taken a while to get here! I hope you can get there faster! (and hopefully you will not have to wait till you are in your late 50’s to find your soulmate!)

    • Yep, I agree with that. And I think the fact that I can write about it is me looking at things philosophically with the distance of time. But it also makes me hyper-conscious of the way children are treated these days. I don’t and probably won’t have kids, but I believe so strongly these days that all kids should have a mentor of some sort to help them through the rough patches. I think maybe one of the reasons I had so much trouble was because I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to for help. Granted, I was too young to know how to ask for help, I still have trouble asking for help, but that’s a whole other story!

  7. I think some things that happen to you can fade, practically invisible in the background but resurface at a moment’s notice and still bring the pain with them. Some pain memories are just strong enough that the pain can still be felt when it resurfaces.

    Most of the time I deal okay. I’m actually a pretty optimistic person, but I also have PTSD and I’m not sure it’ll ever fully go away. At this point in my life it’s rare that my PTSD is triggered, but every once in awhile it is and when it’s triggered it’s suddenly as though it never really healed in the first place.

    I’ve read numerous studies, case studies and otherwise on people with PTSD and more traumatic pasts. It’s not like painful memories for your average person. Not a single one ever mentions, no matter how much healing progress is made, a recover complete enough that the pain and anger completely disappear.

    It’s also something I have little control over. I’ll be fine that I’ll know of but some small trigger throughout the day registers in my subconscious and I’ll wake up with night terrors that relive that traumatic event (one of the prime markers of PTSD; memories and/or dreams that take you right back to the traumatic event as though you never left it or it is literally happening now).

    My safest bet is to try and avoid triggers and in times of stress make a focused effort to redirect my brain waves to unrelated topics. I don’t think, okay, you’re stressed, don’t think about your trauma (because then I’m thinking about it indirectly). Instead, I try to train myself to set my brain to working on a current novel or something and if it really must think negative, then I make myself think about other people’s pain (and usually the resulting sympathy and frustrated lack of power to help that comes with it). These usually prevent me from having PTSD night terrors.

    When it comes to specific people I also try to keep other refreshers away. In fact, now that I think of it, my studies on drug addiction often reveal that the most success in living clean comes when the recovering addict gets rid of “cues” including the people they always did drugs with, even if they’re both trying to quit, they probably should avoid each other else they’ll weaken each other’s resolve by mere presence alone.

    An example for my case, I will buy any other dish soap BUT Dawn. A woman named Dawn was involved in a very awful period of my life where I was emotionally abused. A few of those esteem-whittling moments occurred while I was doing dishes. In this case, having Dawn dish soap is just asking for my brain to obsess over those memories (and since I really can’t do anything but think and sing while doing the dishes…). Easily avoided by purchasing one of the many other brands of dish soap.

    After all that, I think it’s different for every person. Some people can shove it in the back and never look and even be fine. Maybe. There’s some evidence that they’re not as fine as they may think and if they worked through instead of burying they’d be healthier emotionally and physically; many times the subconscious still knows and that translates into more frequent illnesses, or quirks they don’t understand, over-reactions, or even small behaviors that build up over time. But maybe they are fine. Then there are those of us who are super sensitive and/or have been through some deeply scarring things.

    When they’re triggered, I don’t think they ever stop hurting. I hope some day they hurt less, at least…but after everything I’ve learned about PTSD and how it relates to me, I see nothing to indicate the pain will ever go away. Instead, I’ve only learned ways to avoid triggers or how to quickly get back to reality after the trigger.

    Oddly enough, it helps to occasionally (and purposefully) directly approach the subject, particularly in writing, or helping someone else to understand. Triggers are different, they rarely give me the chance to toughen up and ground my brain in the present.

    Yeah, wounds eventually heal to scars, but sometimes scars hurt too. That’s frequently forgotten in that metaphor. And certain pains from the past are more like amputations than knife wounds. Amputations can come paired with pain long after healing in a leg that’s no longer there (phantom leg syndrome sufferers frequently report pain in a limb or part of their limb they no longer have). Likewise, many scarring and painful injuries ache like the dickens in cold or bad weather. I think the metaphor about scars and pain works a bit better when you remember that old, long healed injuries still hurt after certain triggers (cold, bad weather, etc).

    Thus ends my ramble for the day. Interesting post Merry, sorry the movie sucked so bad for you (I haven’t seen it). I would suggest talking to one or more of those friends so maybe they have some sort of idea, in the future, what movies to tell you to steer clear of. If they’re not willing to be considerate like that they probably aren’t the best people for you to be hanging out with. I know I would want to know if I were one of the women with you. Of course I’m 98% positive I would have realized you were crying through most of it and tried to at least talk with you later about it. Which I don’t mean as offense to the friends you were with, only that I’m exceptionally keen at sensing my friends’ emotions at even the tiniest queues, even textual ones where I can’t hear their voice.

    Yeah, okay, I wasn’t -quite- done rambling. Now I am.


    *PTSD=Post traumatic stress disorder (no, it’s not just for soldiers or even victims of abuse).

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  9. I think that 99% of the population is dealing with feeling unworthy and unlovable on a deep level that doesn’t always show up as obvious. It is the reason why we act the way we do so many times. I do believe that you can’t go back and change the past, which is what I think you mean by getting over it. But, I do believe that as we work through our issues we can move passed what happened in the past. It was a big realization for me when I realized that I am an adult and the people who hurt me as a child can’t hurt me now. I am big enough and strong enough to stand up for myself and fight back. I had to realize that I was seeing myself as the scared child in relation to those people and that was holding me back. And it was very freeing. Yes, there are ways that my childhood still effects me now, in the way I think and act and relate to people, but if I’m aware of that I have power. And, I don’t think you would have found Bridesmaids that funny even if you didn’t have friendship issues in your past. I didn’t find it funny. The women all thought very little of themselves, put too much importance on men, and the fat one being funny? Come on, try something new!

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