“Never pack more than you can carry on your own.” My grandmother’s words of wisdom became my mother’s words of wisdom, have become the ringing in my ears. At the tail end of July I packed a 10ft moving truck with only part of the contents of my former Illinois residence and spent twenty-four hours driving to the East Coast. As I was packing boxes, sorting books, folding clothes, trashing my collections of horded junk I realized that I’ve packed more than I can carry on my own. I’ve crammed my heart with regrets, unlived moments, accidental confessions of love, stale rejection, and my head has been full of foggy memories, unresolved issues from the past, and so many What Ifs that there’s barely room for any more life.
There have been times where I’ve ignored that, taken it too literally, or not had a firm grasp and understanding of what, “never pack more than you can carry on your own” truly means. At thirty-six, single mother, with two kids, full-time student and part-time mental health professional I almost understand why this is an important life lesson.
The ritual of disposing of unwanted life contents is something so commonly practiced, yet rarely thought of, at least that’s my personal observation. I began noticing this more when I packed my bags for travel, when I worked with youth in foster care it became more prevalent and something that sat at the forefront of my mind. The treasures we carry and the meanings they hold for us, such personal emotions attached to what we allow to linger in our space, what we surround ourselves with, the symbolic significance and how that shapes what we believe of the world and how we fit in it. Some people have healthy attachments to tangible items in our consumer world, and others connect to inanimate objects, cultures collide, worlds merge, we become…less or more human. We’re gifted precious objects, we adorn ourselves with symbols of romantic ownership (rings) and other jewels, cover our bodies in ink, link ourselves to property that ultimately, we cannot take with us when we leave. After my eldest sister’s unexpected and untimely passing from this world I became ever again, more aware of what we carry…
Out of respect for her, and my family I won’t share the experiences of disconnecting her from this physical space, but I can share my personal experience with my maternal grandmother’s passing. I’m sure that you can think of a loved one who has passed and reflect on what happened with their worldly possessions, perhaps you yourself were in line to inherit something that’d belonged to them, that had traveled through the branches of your family tree for generations, maybe even a small trinket that was part of an inside joke or held personal meaning for the two of you. Maybe you’ve been heartbroken by a soulmate, perhaps you’ve held on to their personal affects, a child’s milestones, your own evidence of history, the accomplishments you’ve made, at some point we separate with all of these possessions, with what we can carry on your own. What we obtain can accumulate to be what we carry with the families we build ourselves, some choose to soar solo, and some go through this life leaving no imprint, they follow the spelunkers rules; take only photos, leave only footprints, and kill only time. I personally would like to move more towards this way of life, becoming more of a minimalist. But what will that mean for what I carry with me? Will it be easier for others to forget me when I’m gone? Will I be of less value because I have fewer possessions?
I felt owned by too much while I was packing, maybe I’m just realizing I still have some commitment issues, but I found I had so many things I didn’t need. Most of what I packed were my kids items, family heirlooms, and books. I donated clothes and things we’ve outgrown to churches, community programs who help those in need, and threw away very little. I don’t want to consume junk and trash in this life. I want to consume the things I can take with me anywhere and everywhere I go, or things that I can pass on to someone who is willing to take a piece of me with them. Sorting and ridding myself of “stuff” offered the opportunity to perform a midlife review, at which time I was able to reflect on who I was, who I am, and who I’m becoming. In looking at the things that own me I was able to see some foundation of the little girl who was born in 1979, on a stormy autumn day in the Midwest. I have found I value art, human history, relationships, love, I have collections of oddities, I like shoes (*insert love struck emoji*), and adore family, nature and milestones are of value. I found memories that it was okay to let go of, finally. I had boxes packed, which allowed me to reflect on the fact that last few years were not permanent and it was only a moment in time, a transition of what would come. Which is where I am now.
I feel that unloading some of what I’ve been carrying all this time is allowing me the opportunity to live new life. And what I’ve chosen to hold on to is hope, family, love, healing and faith that what life comes along next, I will have the wisdom and strength to know what I can carry, on my own.