I can’t make you unpack your suitcase.


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When I unzipped the belly of the little red suitcase the book was sitting there.

It was sitting right on top. It was waiting for me. Two years ago, I used to think that if ever I sat down and finally read that book, it would probably be my favorite book. Maybe one day. Instead, I grabbed a sweater and I closed the suitcase shut. I checked the bag. I would see it in New Orleans. There’s never enough room for your second carry-on bag when they lump you into Zone 3.

Half of my life plays out in airports. The people who spend too much time in airports know I’m not saying that to sound romantic. It can be a tad whimsical. On quiet mornings. And when you aren’t getting a connecting flight in Atlanta. And when you get to fly into cute, little airports with baggage claim areas the size of your bedroom. But otherwise, it’s a lot of waiting. And watching other people wait for other people. And those scenes you used to watch in love movies don’t play out by the terminals anymore because security is too high.

And me? I’m always the girl who packs too much. I still can’t figure out how to pack lightly. It’s like a disease. I pack books I’ll never read because (let’s face it) I haven’t plucked them from my bookshelf in over two years so a trip to St. Louis isn’t going to make the cover look any more sexy to me than it did yesterday. I pack love letters for no apparent reason. I bring too many shoes. I convince myself I need a stuffed animal though I don’t and probably never will. And all the baggage I tuck and fold probably serves no purpose at all and yet I bring it with me because maybe it makes me think I can still be a person I let go of yesterday.

That’s baggage.

Baggage is anything that you still clutch onto too tightly with the hope that it will change or that you’ll change or that something will change. Baggage is anything you haven’t figured out just how to let fall off of you yet. Baggage is anything that does a poor, poor job of reflecting the person you were supposed to wake up and be today.

That’s baggage. And there’s too kinds. The easy and tangible: the lip gloss, the passport, the camera, the walletAnd then there is the real stuff: The sometimes clunky, often misshapen stuff I really don’t like admitting that I still carry with me. Like a shadow. Like a fanny pack around my waist. Like a second skin. No, no one likes saying out loud, “Oh, I should have let that go a long time ago and yet I never really did.”

I sat down to tea with a good friend last week. I could probably write an additional 1,500 words about the pretty pink porcelain and the Christmas lights still strung up around the shop that fool you into thinking every evening is the kind of holiday evening where a tree and mistletoe are waiting for you back home. We had three cups of tea (it sounds even more precise and romantic to type three).

And, as it always goes with old friendships, we poured tea and built bridges back into the lives of one another with all the stories that happened between November and now.

“So tell me it,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for this one.”

I sucked in deep. I went to speak. The story felt rehearsed by now. I recited it word for word.  And I made certain things sound more poetic than how they actually happened. And I stitched morals along the way. And the whole thing didn’t really end so much as in meandered into this weird grey area that left me thinking, when I said the last line of a story I’d already told too many people, “Man, I need to tell a better story than this. Otherwise, this is just pathetic. Sad. Too broken. Womp womp. Cue the world’s smallest violin.”

It was within that frumpy, sad little story (with very little ending) that I realized– baggage grows in these sorts of things. Baggage comes out of these sorts of things. It gets clingy in these grey, unresolved areas. It grows enormous and wraps tight to our ankles when we don’t give ourselves the triumphant, sweet endings we so deserve. That’s where baggage comes from– the exact moment when you think you are called to play small when life breaks your heart.

It’s like every single day we get to tell the coolest little stories that could make other people see themselves better and yet we are so hellbent on making ourselves sound broken instead. It’s like we’ve been given a million and one chances to be violins with our own lungs and we’d just rather rip out the strings and cry instead.

I’m just going to play metaphorical for a minute, baby: I can’t make you unpack your suitcase.

It’s not as easy as typing “DEAL WITH IT” and expecting that you ultimately will. If it were that easy? Jeepers, we’d never hurt one another again just because others hurt us in the past. Maybe the only advice I’ve got is really no advice at all so much as it is a movie quote I heard in a dark and empty theater this week, but I think it could tell you everything there is to know about about baggage: “The past is just stories we tell ourselves.”

That’s it. That’s all. Just stories we tell ourselves. Over and over again. And we decide if they chain us up or free us daily. Just stories you could somehow rewrite and let go of and turn into better memories when you start searching the seams of “what happened” for morals that actually make you grow instead of shrink.

You lost. You got rejected. He hurt you. You hurt her. It happened once. It happened twice. You didn’t see it coming at all. Your heart closed up. You got real good at pretending. There’s a bunch of reason, baby. And it would really interested to watch you get real– like SUPA REAL– with the man at the gate to A12, where all flights seemingly meet and merge, when he tells you to take everything out of your pockets and remove anything that might cause the alarm to go off. You see, if life were as literal as a Beyonce song, you’d get to take one of those clunky grey bins and dispense everything– all the old love songs, the words he used to say to you, the fights from old friendships, and all the little stories that are still missing their endings– into that bin. 

You’d get to walk through security, free from it all. And you’d get to keep walking. Away. Away. Away. Like a gangster. Like a baller. You’d get to leave the clunky grey bin behind– full of all that crap that only pushes you down with not-so-victorious endings– as you throw up your deuces and go. Go, baby go.

That’s the thing about baggage.

You either carry every clunky piece of it with you, like costume jewelry stacked around your neck, and you stay thinking one day you’ll find a better burial for those things then right here, or you pluck the lesson out from the thing and you resolve to let the thing go. Let the thing go, let the thing go.

Walk away. Make a decision for yourself that will make Aesop and all his little fables proud as you take the moral of the story and you leave the rest. As you pack the towels but you leave the mess.

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87 Comments

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87 responses to “I can’t make you unpack your suitcase.

  1. Oh girl. You have such a way with words. Love you and this post something’ FIERCE.

  2. THIS. Oh this. So much. Your words are a balm to my soul. Thank you.

  3. Kathleen

    You are such a beautiful writer. I await your blog posts eagerly and I soak up every meaningful, messy, love-filled word. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with strangers whose lives you most certainly positively impact.

  4. Valerie

    Awesome! Loved it.

  5. >>clutches tightly to her suitcase<< But who am I without my baggage? Me. I am me.

  6. >>clutches tightly to her red, leather suitcase<< But who am I without my baggage? Me. I am me. No longer obsessively tracking the lost baubles in baggage claim.

  7. mercy m

    Great stuff! Don’t we all wish it were that easy to do! You challenged me…..I.am going to let my baggage so….thanks!

  8. I recently saw “Her” and I recently wrote (a lot) about baggage on my own blog, so this post resonated so very much. Beautiful writing and insights as always.

  9. Here’s to jettisoning the baggage; leaving all the crap on that carousel and moving forward more freely. Hugs and thanks for another heartfelt post.

  10. Kristen D

    Hello dear! So good to see you posting blogs and giving me that weekly dose of Monday magic again! I regularly try to make comments and I know sometimes you’re not readily available to respond but this one here is unbelievably relevant at this particular point in my life. Baggage is everywhere to put it plainly. Some of it I have gotten much better at letting go of but there is a recent situation with a guy that I am (unfortunately or not) still convinced could ultimately turn out differently than what has happened in the past few months. If you’ve ever met someone who you instantly connect with and become friends with while simultaneously developing further feelings that suddenly need to be put away, you know how I feel. You know that moment when you walk into the office and you’re happy to see them because they genuinely made you happy before they broke your heart, and they still make you happy even while your heart’s still hurting? Yea, that’d be him. I wanted to point out one part specifically of your post that jumped out at me when I read it tonight. ” I pack love letters for no apparent reason.” On the contrary, you pack them for a very specific reason. A reason so simple that most people can’t even see they need to be regularly smacked in the face with it. Kindness is a rare gift that should be as common as the air we breathe. And yet, it took me a long time to find you and it’s taken me even longer to go through with continuing it. I get so excited about writing letters to strangers, I put them in envelopes and seal them knowing they’re going to change someone’s day…and then I leave them on my desk and go on with my morning, my day, my week, until I realize they’re still there waiting for me to drop them off at the most random and unthought of places. You can’t make anyone unpack their suitcase, but you certainly are helping me discover how it’s supposed to happen in my own life. For that I will always be grateful. Keep being awesome girl! Sometimes all I need to see is a post from you and it can bring me out of the deepest mood. Kristen

    Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2014 22:34:55 +0000 To: carib_lover@hotmail.com

  11. Pingback: Weekend reads | {amelia} writes

  12. I can’t pack light to save my life.
    :)

  13. You should right a book if you aren’t already!! You’re writing is so crazy good it’s unbelievable. :)

  14. ceruleanstarshine

    I know exactly what you mean. And this..was exactly what I needed to hear this week. I have some ideas for ditching my own past baggage. I’ve been carrying it too long, and it’s too damned heavy. I wish you luck with ditching yours, and telling stories emphasizing how awesome you are, instead of broken.

  15. Fellow hoarder here. Totally could relate with this post. I am one with lotsa physical and emotional memories..which I could never ever let go.

  16. writinglesbian

    Love this

  17. My goodness, you have a way with words! I love it!!

  18. I love how you captured a “traditional” of baggage, beautifully put! Like I write, “we hold the pieces to our puzzles and must place and push in every piece”. Thank you for sharing!

  19. felicia

    Yes…i can relate!

  20. You are a brilliant writer. I am now less than three months from the end of my professional life and my first attempt to take of. So far I have lived very materialistically. You speak right to me.

  21. This is great^^ love it *-*

  22. This is so beautiful, I had to read it twice.

  23. Loved this piece. Wish I wasn’t conned in to thinking I love my baggage too. Any excuse not to part…

  24. This was such a great read!

  25. This is my first comment and first post I laid eyes on!!!! Absolutely beautiful!!!!

  26. So much truth in this post. I absolutely love how freeing and hopeful it made me feel.

  27. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    DON’T WE ALL HAVE BAGGAGE OF ONE KIND OR ANOTHER????

  28. Reblogged this on o0hlala and commented:
    Anything that does not serve as a useful & uplifting should stay out of your life.

  29. This is raw, real, and flawless.
    Would you mind following me back? :)

  30. Reblogged this on Brain of a Palindrome and commented:
    Good for the soul kinda stuff

  31. Jae

    This is a beautiful, beautiful post. This is something I wouldn’t be comfortable talking about [yet], but you made it sound so full of hope.

    Thank you for sharing…

  32. Fantastic writing! We are similar in some ways :)

  33. You write like a poet. Very beautiful writing.

  34. Absolutely love this…..very whimsical and honest. Your an incredible writer!

  35. Therapy. Therapy. Therapy.

    A smart, kind, tough therapist is sometimes the best way to pry that nasty bit of baggage from your clutching, grasping, freaking-out hands. In the middle of it these days — and already feeling so much lighter and happier. Sometimes you need someone to help you carry it for a little bit before you can name it and drop it.

  36. Reading this made me feel like I was going head first into a brick wall. I needed to hit the imaginary brick wall. I needed this… thank you

  37. This is a wonderful post, love it! xx

  38. Thats really amazing stuff!

  39. Reblogged this on Uduak and commented:
    How you handle your baggage is what makes you who you are. You may decide to unpack it and utilize the content. Good that means you want to move forward or you could decide not to unpack it and keep the content intact and stay loaded with your baggage. Then where will you put in new things and do away with old. Each day is unique why can’t we have the same type of day throughout the week, month or year. Ever contemplated that? Please unpack your baggage, discard old and torn items , the expired and non re-usable ones. Oh! you need your memoirs then select which to keep and which to discard. The choice is yours as well as mine but be comfortable, happy and healthy about it. Your baggage is yours do as you please.

  40. No matter how beautiful the baggage it remains a baggage make use of them and move on. I hope I do so.

  41. Mmmm. Yes, love the bit about feeling we have to “play small” when life breaks our hearts. I think that’s the time to kick off and say, “No way, that’s not good enough !!!… be damned if I’m going to just roll over”. Saying what’s real for you at that moment actually scares the knickers off people who’ve “done ya wrong” (and who all too frequently expect to just move on with no verbal repercussions) and Gosh, isn’t that worth it – but more importantly, it releases you. You’ve said your bit, now sashay away. x.x.

  42. Pingback: Another Time|I cant make you unpack your suitcase | kmlkoubablog

  43. Reblogged this on Abluckyi's Blog and commented:
    We all have baggage to unpack yet some content are never meant to be as they form part of the fibers that make us who we are. Shift through your baggage with care.

  44. I think we all carry baggage and your post will certainly help us to know we are not alone (even at times when we may think we are).

  45. Reblogged this on Monkey Memoirs. and commented:
    Magic in every word.

  46. Reblogged this on Alexandria Post and commented:
    Reviving post from Hannah Brencher about leaving the past behind.

  47. Minty

    Reblogged this on Mints And Wisdom and commented:
    So good!

  48. Wow, this is a great article. Even from a guy’s perspective, I can tell you I really got into your “baggage” concept. Look forward to reading more of your stuff :)

  49. Agreed. We must look at the baggage, learn from it and leave it in the past instead of carrying it with us. We must be free enough to move forward and grow further. For there is usually many more potential bags just around life’s corner….

  50. Reblogged this on Hold it! and commented:
    I came across this great blog that talks about how we cling to our past and let it affect our present as well as future decisions and robbing us of our much needed peace of mind and happiness.

  51. Reblogged this on Cowgirl On Yoga! and commented:
    A must read!

  52. I happened to go through this post when today I spilled my baggage (that has been accumulating for months) all out to the person I had wanted to say it all to, and I did it accidentally, only to cower in fear later of what the repercussions might be. But yes, letting it out has left me feeling lighter. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I think I’m already en route to unpacking my suitcase. I don’t believe in coincidences. I think your wonderful post is a sign that the universe agrees with me.

  53. “That’s the thing about baggage. You either carry every clunky piece of it with you, like costume jewelry stacked around your neck, and you stay thinking one day you’ll find a better burial for those things then right here, or you pluck the lesson out from the thing and you resolve to let the thing go. Let the thing go, let the thing go.”

    Love this part – so so so true. Let it gooooo.

  54. Pingback: I can’t make you unpack your suitcase « Career & Guidance @ KISD Career Center

  55. Clap. Clap. Bow. Bow.
    Thank you!

  56. Tanya

    Great Post! Ah baggage we all have it tucked away on the shelf in the closet only opened by us and the people we hurt with it.
    http://www.seeingintome.com

  57. B

    Reblogged this on Dispatches from PDX and commented:
    This was so incredibly well-said, and has come at a perfect moment in my life. Thank you, Hannah Brencher, for this beautiful post.

  58. Nice. I will think of this every time I go through airport security and make sure to leave some baggage in those gray bins!

  59. Wow, love your way with words. I love your take on the past as simply stories we tell ourselves… so much truth in that. Thanks for making me think this morning.

  60. Reblogged this on aWomanCalledHun and commented:
    Beautiful

  61. I felt like you were one of my friends chatting with me. What a great voice. It made me really evaluate how I have been living with so much baggage carrying it with me no matter how many times I move

  62. Love the metaphor! Indeed, very inspirational. Thanks ;)

  63. Very nice article! You are a great writer! This really made me think about the things I hang onto that I shouldn’t… certain people who have wronged me in the past. Things that I’ve done and said, pour choices I’ve made that I haven’t quite forgiven myself for… Love it!

  64. This is so honest. I loved your post :)

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