One summer day a couple of years ago, we were at my daughter’s Soccer game when my mom asked if we wanted to come up to the mountains for the weekend. She was the events coordinator for a large company and they were having their yearly retreat at a beautiful resort that is completely out of our budget. One of the guests had not showed up and so there was an extra room already paid for just sitting there and it was ours for the taking. We were all so excited and of course jumped at the opportunity. I found myself in a predicament as I realized we were not packed for such a trip. In order to make the hour drive home (in the opposite direction) pack and then make what would then be a two hour drive to the resort, we would arrive just in time to have missed the chance to participate in an afternoon of canoeing on the lake before the coming storm rolled in.
We made the decision to instead run to the Walmart across the street and grab a cheap bathing suit and toothbrush for everyone and then head out. We arrived in record time and it was one of the best weekends we have ever had. I ended up having to set up a “laundry station” in the bathroom and we washed and dried clothes at night in order to be able to wear them again the next day, but everything we had literally fit inside of a small backpack and it was incredible! I felt so liberated and free not being weighed down by a bunch of extra stuff.
You see, usually I am an over packer. You know, the girl who is going on an over night trip and shows up with two huge suit cases? Yeah. That’s me. I don’t do it on purpose. In fact I start the packing process telling myself and assuring my husband that this time will be different and I will ONLY bring what will fit into my backpack. What I absolutely need turns into what I could need which turns into what I will need if this happens or that happens which turns into, everything I will need if every possible contingency I can think of happens… being shoved into three huge suitcases. Sigh.
When my loving husband comes upstairs to gather the overnight bag he finds me sitting on the bed, defeated as I utter a chagrined apology. He just sighs, shakes his head and rearranges the back of the car to accommodate my baggage.
And really, that is what it is, my baggage. Once we are able to cram ourselves into the car or we get to the airport and the reality of all of the baggage that we are now responsible for keeping track of, lugging around, getting through security, getting checked….it becomes this living, breathing thing that drives everyone crazy!
Don’t we all do the same thing to one degree or another in our own lives? It may not necessarily be an actual suitcase full of what we have convinced ourselves are our essential things. Maybe it is emotional, physical or mental baggage. You know, those things from our past that we can’t seem to let go of? The things that we are constantly packing and dragging along, because we have convinced ourselves that they are an essential part of who we are, and then spending all of our time hiding from, tripping over, shoving them into closets and wishing they didn’t exist.
Too much unnecessary baggage is heavy, awkward, exhausting and can often mean the difference between a fulfilling adventure and a frustrating game of high stakes Twister as everyone involved spends their energy twisting and turning in order to accommodate the elephant in the room- or the car, so to speak.
As I reflect back on that amazing weekend that I was able to spend with my family without having to worry about all of the “stuff” I can’t help but ask myself:
What if I stopped worrying about what might happen or what could happen? What if I stopped allowing myself to be dependent on my ability to prepare for contingencies? What if I learned to give up my dependence on the things I have convinced myself are safety nets which in fact are simply extra weight that I condemn myself and others to dragging around? What if I learned to put the past behind me and stopped dragging around my heart breaks and my mistakes and my fears? What if I stopped carrying around the remains of who I used to be and learned to be free?
There is no denying we all have baggage.
What if we turned our suitcases full of baggage into a backpack of life experience? What if we could take all of the “stuff” we carry around and break it down into the essentials? What if we took the addiction in our life and left all of the guilt and shame of it behind, taking instead the lesson of strength and the ability to overcome that we have gained. What if we leave behind our need to control and over think everything and instead we take the ability to lead and plan and care for others? Soon we would find ourselves with a manageable load, easily carried without becoming a hindrance while still reminding us of the road we have traveled to get here and the way it has shaped and prepared us for the road that lies ahead.
With our backpack strapped to our back, we can still be prepared for the journey without being weighed down by the past.