Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Pack and Go
Right now, as I type this out, I am supposed to be excitedly zipping up my suitcase. I'm leaving my little rental dollhouse in a few hours for a vacation. To a tropical island location with beachside cabana. Alone.
Aaaaaaaand I can't focus.
This has been my life the past ten months or so; my inability to focus and the ensuing feelings of unsettledness and dissatisfaction with everything have rendered me a wreck. I can't make sense of anything, I have no Clarity. And this Winter, especially, I've been dealing with that stale feeling that comes with too many snowcloud-covered days, the days that tarnish the shiny bits that normally give glint when the Winter sun decides to come out. What's a girl to do?
Go on another retreat? YES. In the Winter of Her Discontent? YES. Someplace warm, with myriad distractions, but also with myriad stretches of sand and sea for solitude and serenity? YES. Mission: Tropical Retreat? YES.
So it was back in the late Fall when I started planning. This retreat, though, required a bit more planning than a summer camping retreat: there were airlines and car rentals and accommodations to figure out. And it cost more than a tank of gas, campsite fees, and a cooler full of food. Way more. Like, more than I probably should have spent. But hey, there are worse things that could happen besides the cable getting shut off while I'm gone, right?
These past few weeks have been spent avoiding responsibilities in favor of coming to terms with leaving everyone and everything I know to go away. Far, far away. Alone.
As my departure date has approached, I've had to think about what I'd actually be doing during this sojourn: What would I need? What would I pack? How much could I fit in that small carry on suitcase? Well for starters, I'd need some distractions for the travelling portions, so books (special thanks to Magheen for a particularly poignant selection) were packed and music was downloaded to the ol' iPhone. I knew I'd be spending some time reflecting and writing, so I packed a journal (a beautiful one from my friend, Winga). I'd also be spending ample time on the beach, and in went not one, not two, but five bikinis. (Yes, bikinis. Yes, I'm *gulp* over 40. I'm not that awful to look at, I don't think.) And then some warm weather clothes were rolled up and smooshed in. Flip flops. The smallest bottle of sunscreen. A fleece top to soothe my sure-to-be-sunburned shoulders during the evening hours. Jewelry (girls love jewelry, right?) consisted of some important things: a collection of bracelets- of freshwater pearls, of garnet beads, of prayer beads ("they're the color of your eyes," a friend told me); and of favorite necklaces, reminders of love in silver pendant form. And then the business of everyday life went in, all the soaps and potions that keep me feeling ready for the daily grind, let me feel pretty, sometimes, even. So much stuff for one person!
I stopped packing to switch the laundry around, and during this pause, I consulted my checklist, answered a few text messages, scanned Facebook, and then realized I haven't eaten anything today except trail mix, had nothing to drink except coffee. I'm leaving in only 6 hours now, and it is finally hitting me that I'm embarking on my first real vacation in over 18 years. Eight. Teen. Years. And I can't move from my spot on the couch, can't finish folding the laundry, can't stop whatever the fuck that feeling is that gets caught in my throat and produces tears. Eyes closed, eighteen years of another lifetime gets compressed and moved along behind my eyelids, complete with PowerPoint slide transitions and sloppily edited soundtrack. And again, so much stuff for one person!
Deep breath in, exhale. Hands cover eyes and wipe cheeks dry. Hands push me up off the couch, feet move me towards the kitchen. Coffee maker is set, another handful of trail mix, a gulp of water. Back to the task at hand.
As I finished packing all of my things, I thought about how this layering of tangible daily assets into a bag is directly mirrored with our internal assets: the layers we put on our bodies- clothing, jewelry, perfumes? These are the visible marks of Our Memories, the way they are interconnected and layered upon each other; they are Our People, the layers of connections they represent, from the food we've eaten together, the music we've listened to together, the books we've read and discussed- all of it. What is here now and what we've collected on our journeys, what we've kept up in front of our minds for a short while, and what we've branded on our hearts...the symbolism of all of these layers? These things get packed up and get to come along on our adventures whether we like it or not, and so we are really never alone. And my suitcase is filled, and my alarm clock is set for 2:30 am, and I am ready to go on an adventure Alone, but not.
Not this time.
Not next time.
There is a smile on my face as I cover up with down comforter and quilt, and for the knowledge that all the Loves of My Life are just as excited and anxious as I am for morning to get here. They're packed and ready to go. They've got the big bottle of sunscreen, they've got the FJ fueled up and ready to go. They are wringing their hands. They are reflecting and putting pen to page, they are waiting for me at my cabana, lounging in the hammock, waiting for their turn to use the outdoor shower after sand and surf get all up in their business. They are collecting my mail, eating the perishable food left in the fridge, keeping the sidewalk clear of snowcloud tears. Too much stuff for only one person- thank goodness there are so many of them to help!
Mission: Tropical Retreat is nearing Go Time. The Clarity I've been looking for is maybe the acceptance of Right Now; of going Alone, but Not; of figuring out that I get to choose which memories only stay for a little while as opposed to getting branded on my heart; of falling through the ice and only getting bruised and chilled; of being grateful for so much stuff for only one person; of all the Loves of My Life, no matter if they believe me when or how I say I love them; and of allowing myself to Give Love without promise of anything in return.
That's my theory, anyway. I'm going to pack and go- I'll let you know what I find.
Until next time, friends.