Anyone who has ever gone anywhere on a trip — even a little kid who goes to a sleepover for the first time — knows how difficult it is to pack a suitcase. Personally, I am a notorious over-packer because I’d rather have too many choices of things to wear than not enough, which includes having shoe options as well. I find unpacking to be equally unpleasant upon returning home, because it’s the final sign that whatever trip is over, and usually there’s laundry to be done, clothes to be rehung, etc. Not to mention staring at my suitcase sitting somewhere inconvenient (in the hall, next to the bed, by the door) until the unpacking is finished.
Last week, Husband and I — with the help of his parents — semi-frantically packed up all the belongings we had brought to our winter house-sitting gig in the span of under 48 hours. Earlier in the week it had started out fine as we slowly began staging boxes in the garage, but when our timeline was compressed unexpectedly, it quickly became painful.
Painful because the packing up process reminded me of doing the exact same thing less than a year ago. A year ago the majority of the packing up of our apartment in California was a solo gig, and Husband physically couldn’t be there to help because he was already working in Alaska. In my mind I kept thinking, “How many more times will we have to do this?”
Painful because I know in the end that it’s all just stuff… that all I really “need” is Husband and Wonderpup and probably the computer, too. But my clothes and shoes and accessories and other girly stuff — all the things that are possible to do without — actually help me feel good on the outside. Most of the time that outside dressing simply matches me on the inside, and sometimes feeling good externally can change my mood internally. It was hard to lose track of seemingly everything last week and worry about how I was even going to find something to wear — even pajamas. Part of me feeling like myself is getting to choose how I present myself to the world each day.
Painful because I have a strong need to control my environment when things are happening that are beyond my control. This explains, in part, my typical level of organization. Lacking control around the packing process because of its speediness led to multiple meltdowns in the space of one afternoon.
Thankfully, the packing part is over for now. With any luck, in a few weeks we’ll be moving into a home of our own and be able to savor the process of unpacking and settling in. It just never ceases to be an emotional experience for me to see life wrapped and packed into stacks and stacks of cardboard and paper or thrown into baskets and crates. The visual mini-inventory of life in this form does not even begin to capture who we are as people or how much we grow and change in the time of living in a certain place.
But this is part of the process of being a grown-up, yes? Every once in a while, to take stock of the homes we’ve created, pack up the important stuff to take with us, and purge the things that have outgrown their use or no longer matter. To prioritize — sometimes re-prioritize — how we will value the people and things that populate our lives.
While it is not likely that I will ever enjoy the process of packing or unpacking, I will try to remember that it is the act of traveling to new places and spaces — both physical and emotional, and however temporarily — that allows me to gain perspective.