An Open Letter to NeNe Leakes

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Dear Mrs. Linnethia “NeNe” Leakes,

I am writing to you on behalf of millions of viewers who empathized with you during the expression of pain displayed on the Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion show. For many, it was great to witness you break out of the shell of yesterday and arise to new-found respect, not only from viewers, but fellow cast members as well. I’m sure you had not planned to open up in that manner and become so vulnerable, but the results were phenomenal and allowed others a window into what drives you.Open Letter to NeNe Leakes

As a coach I spend a lot of time connecting with people about the various challenges in their lives. I have adapted a line of questioning early on in our sessions that help us cut through the red tape and get to the matters at hand. For instance, instead of asking the question, “What is wrong?” I prefer to ask, “What is missing?” It always amazes me the amount of stuff we feel is really stopping our momentum. But the reality is, nothing can stop us, but ourselves. I would go as far as to say it boils down to the things we “perceive” to be real, but are not.

The majority of problems can be summed up as such – 90 percent of what’s wrong is how we see it. So from the job that you hate so much to the family member you just can’t seem to reconcile with, it’s all about perception. To truly rise up and get out of our own way, we will need to adjust the way we see life and often that means ridding ourselves of emotional baggage.

As a person who travels quite often, one of the most rewarding travel skills a person can acquire, travelling light trumps the list as the one most likely to result in stress-free, productive and enjoyable travel experiences. I know, for most women this is not an easy task. A staggering 79 per cent of women questioned in a recent survey admitted to taking extra items away with them, with the most common reason for this being “just in case.”

In addition to an outfit for every possible scenario, women admittedly pack more make-up and hair appliances than they were likely to need on an average week-long getaway. Nearly a third of women said they had been victims of excess baggage charges, due to their overenthusiastic packing.

Although many disagree with the concept of airlines charging so much for extra baggage or stuff, I believe there are two main reasons they have found it necessary. First, it is an added control feature to security. There are fewer items to sort through in search of a security breach. The added fee causes many to control the amount of “baggage” they bring aboard. Second, all of the extra baggage has a direct impact on the weight of the aircraft; heavier planes equal more fuel which leads to higher fuel prices.

I am a strong believer that all truth is parallel; as such whatever is displayed by a person’s behavior is more often than not a true reflection of what is going on inside. Simply stated, we would all do well to learn from the example the airlines have provided for us as a consequence to carrying excess baggage with us on our life’s journey. Everyone has some form of baggage, but in this correspondence I want to focus on emotional extras.

Emotional baggage is the turmoil one carries which was caused by issues in their past.  This is the extra crap that clutters our mind and weighs us down with regurgitation of the past. Emotional baggage hinders our peace and renders us unable to fully enjoy the present.

For example, everyone can attest to holding a grudge at one time or another and eventually the weight of it became too heavy so they forgave the offense or simply let it go. Then there are those who find it difficult to release hard feelings; they find themselves assuming the role of victim in their relationships and have chosen estrangement over forgiveness. We all know someone who demonstrates this behavior; they have not spoken to someone they had been close to for years over some perceived offense.

From a medical standpoint, emotional hoarding is not considered a bona fide mental illness, but many mental health experts agree that harboring grudges and bottling up emotions can lead to stress-related physical and mental and physical issues. It pays to reason that emotional hoarding over time has the grave potential to be detrimental to your health and well-being.

Just as excess luggage on an aircraft, too much emotional baggage demands a high price. The side effects of emotional hoarding are things such as headaches, high blood pressure, depression, insomnia, weight issues such as over eating or not enough, and compulsive behaviors such as excessive shopping or the feeling of never having enough. With so much potential for disaster, it is no wonder that emotional hoarding is a definite threat to one’s health which should be avoided at all costs once recognized.

The tricky thing with baggage is it has so many different faces. This is the crap we carry around with us. We store them in the deepest chamber of our hearts and the most remote areas of our brain. They have become ingrained in the extensive database of our memories. Although detrimental to our health, we tend to feel justified holding on to our “victim” status and we present our lifetime membership cards as “validation” when we feel victimized.

Things such as broken dreams, childhood trauma, betrayals, failed careers and health challenges are a few of the many concerns that have the potential to cast deep emotional scars in our hearts causing us to become vulnerable members of society and our own family. It all boils down to the way we deal with contradictions.

How many times have we stopped interacting with another person, as opposed to talking out the conflict in hopes of facilitating a resolution? When someone offends us we need to pause and take notice of how we react. Do we suffer in silence or confront the person, voicing your displeasure and eliciting an apology in an effort to bring resolution, or do we bottle our feelings up and tuck them away in the innermost parts of our mind? If the latter is true, we are displaying the behavior of an emotional hoarder and leaving ourselves at risk of developing physical and mental problems.

We all have a choice in the matter. The healthiest option is to forgive others when warranted, accept their errant ways by releasing the hurt feelings and moving on with life. Hence, the serenity prayer:

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Your inner peace and ability to fully enjoy life is dependent on learning how to forgive or let go and move on. One of the most dangerous places to find yourself in, is a place called yesterday. It is the past for a reason so get out of the rear view mirror and focus on the road. Life is a road we all travel and it’s so much easier once we lighten the load and enjoy a more flexible journey.

In conclusion, I celebrate the vulnerability you displayed on the final cut of the RHOA reunion show as well as the courage it took to return to the set. You gained much respect from many people who did not understand your coarse demeanor and low tolerance for anything contrary to NeNe’s way. Additionally, your emotional meltdown helped many others who have tried to navigate life with the pain of their past locked inside, choking the life out of them finally under the power of release.  Bravo Mrs. Linnethia “NeNe” Leakes, now you can fully enjoy all that life has blessed you with – void of the extra baggage.

Best wishes,

Cherese Jackson