I used to think that the traumatic or trying events in my life were a seven-piece luggage set that traveled with me wherever I went. That perspective weighed me down, slowed me down, and made me feel as if my soul had a “Wide Load” sign attached to it, like those flatbed trucks taking up two lanes on the highway while transporting a mobile home.

In my experience, there is a story the ego is telling me about who I am and what is happening in my life that is filled with fear. And the voice of fear is usually loud and very close- right all up in my face. And then there’s another story that the voice of the soul is ceaselessly recounting to me beneath all that surface noise. These two stories are told in two different kinds of time: chronos and kairos.

Chronos, or chronological time, is linear, sequential “clock time”: this is where the ego lives and thrives. We often want time to unfold in this way, one event following the next and arriving just when we want it to arrive. Kairos, on the other hand, is non-linear, sacred time—the right or opportune moment.

We can pray our butts off for something to happen, say finding a lover, or getting a car or house, or having a long-awaited child. But then the person we meet ends up smothering us with love we weren’t ready for, or the car payments put us in debt and the house catches on fire, or the baby of our dreams has colic and we don’t sleep for two years straight. Then we realize that maybe, just maybe, in willfully pursuing our ego’s desire, we tampered with sacred timing. Kairos is aligned with the highest truth for our lives, and being aligned with kairos means not always getting what we want when we want it.

Kairos is the sacred time needed for us to meet with not only what fulfills us but also what fulfills a need in the world. Kairos works on our soul’s timing, not the laminated timetable the ego has set up for our life. Kairos–time allows things to unfold naturally; nothing is forced or contrived into being out of fear.

When we judge where we are in our lives and how much we’ve achieved, we do so from a place of chronos. Our judgments are based on expectations we set for ourselves: job by 25; married with children by 30; book published by 35; own business by 40, and so on to the grave. Many of us measure ourselves by these milestones without even examining them to see if they’re our own.

Meaning some of these linear expectations are acquired through social osmosis. What shifts the weight of our baggage is simply choosing it. Owning the baggage as the particular story our soul needed to live out allows us to claim it. And oddly enough, claiming it allows us to then let it go.

Once we let go of some of the stories that have been defining and confining us, we can align our identity with a deeper truth—with the soul-story beneath the surface drama of who we are according to the ego. We can dive beneath the wreck we fear we’ve made of our lives to hear the story our soul is living out. Listening to our soul-story allows us to release the idea that life is something happening to us. We can claim the power to become the author of our own narrative.

This is how we begin: we claim our baggage as the story of our soul. No matter how old you are or what you’ve been through, you can change your perception of what’s possible by claiming what has weighed you down and what you’ve used as an excuse to remain closed and unworthy of love, and accepting that your baggage is, in fact, your personal soul-story, which has unfolded in exactly the sacred time it required. You may not be where you wanted or expected to be at this point in your life, but you can choose to acknowledge that you are right where you need to be.

This does not mean that where you are is not painful or frustrating. But it does mean that you have the power to change your life in an instant, simply by changing your perspective.

Take all those stories you’ve used as a reason to not love yourself. It’s time to see them as lessons to challenge, refine, and even polish your soul. You look at those hard-to-let-go-of stories, and you love yourself enough to see that you deserve much more than to dwell on them and punish yourself with regret. You own the stories that have kept you in hiding, knowing that they form the unique narrative of your soul. You also know, however, that they are only a part of your journey, not the whole.

In this way you clean out your inner closets. You dig out the piles stashed behind the couch and under the bed, in the basement, the attic, and the spare room, and you lay the contents of your life at your feet. You sift through everything that makes up who you are and what you will be able to do and become.

If we didn’t have baggage, if we didn’t have dark, troubling stories in our lives, how would we ever get to practice the power of our love? What if every traumatic event we’ve endured, every regretful choice we’ve made, is actually an opportunity for the soul to spread its wings? We lift the weight of what has held us down by choosing to believe that everything in our lives has happened for our soul’s formation. It has not only happened for a reason but happened exactly when it needed to. And that means births and deaths, marriages and divorces, epic gains and epic losses.

At the end of the movie Ghost, Patrick Swayze’s character, Sam, is about to enter the infamous “light.” As he kisses his wife (played by Demi Moore) with his translucent soul-lips, he tells her, “It’s amazing, Molly. The love inside, you take it with you.”

This is when I always do the ugly cry- not out of sadness but out of the pure joy that comes from recognizing the truth.  This scene reminds me with such clarity and simplicity that there is really only one thing of importance in my life- cultivating the capacity to love. Imagine putting down all that baggage you’ve been dragging around and then filling a tote bag, a little red one, with love. Imagine traveling with just that—and nothing else—wherever you go.

Meggan Watterson is the founder of REVEAL, an organization that spiritually empowers women to connect to the love within them, reclaim their bodies as sacred, and become soul-led agents of change in the world.