In one of our women’s meetings at church, our teacher brought in a suitcase and rolled it around the room.
She asked, “How many of you have unpacked your bags?”
She confessed that she has lived here for years and never mentally or emotionally unpacked her bags.
She said when we don’t unpack our bags, we live with one foot out the door.
I wasn’t the only woman in the room thinking,”This lesson is for me.”
I heard women whispering, “This is for me.” And saw others nodding their heads as if it applied to them too.
Maybe carrying around our metaphorical packed bags gives us an escape clause or an excuse to hold back, and make fewer commitments.
The question then is what are we missing if we trek through life with a packed bag –always feeling like our circumstances are temporary?
When we think we’re on our way out of a community, a job, a relationship, or any other situation or commitment, we automatically hold back and contribute less, which of course means, we get less.
Our teacher advised, “Whether you are going to be here for one week, one year, or the rest of your life–unpack your bags.”
I thought about that while walking one morning because sometimes I miss the familiar sights, sounds, and faces of my old life.
I wondered if after eight months whether I’ve unpacked my bags completely.
When I see a friend volunteering at the White House Easter Egg roll or other friends going to Washington Nationals games; or groups of friends celebrating a birthday in one of my favorite restaurants without me, I get a little nostalgic — not desperately homesick like I made a drastic mistake in moving, just a little wistful.
While thinking about this on my walk, my thoughts were interrupted by the quacking of a beautiful duck floating in a pond, and then a chirp of a fascinating, unfamiliar bird.
I stopped to look around and was awed by my new scenery.
I thought about the new sounds, places and faces I’m now appreciating, and I realized that unpacking is probably a process, not a one-time event.
Maybe we all need to continually work at unpacking because we don’t want to miss anything on our journeys, wherever those journeys take us.
Brené Brown said in her book Rising Strong “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
Sometimes it takes courage to show up, and it seems easier to live life with your bags packed, with one foot out the door just in case…
But, what do we gain when we choose that kind of timid, fearful, cautionary life?
I want to be like my friend, Laura, who has moved frequently, and after every move, has said, “That was my favorite place!”
Every place becomes her favorite because she fully unpacks her bags wherever she goes and she decides every new place and new experience will be her favorite.
I read about a military family that learned that the difference between misery and happiness is unpacking your bag and settling down—whether for days, months, or years.
They learned that if they believed they could be in a place for many years, they were happier. They invested more of themselves and in turn, had deeper relationships and better experiences all around.
This lesson applies not just to physically moving, but to all the areas of our lives where we hold back and carry around that symbolic tightly packed bag.
I love this bit of Buddah wisdom: “Be where you are…otherwise you will miss your life.”