I am talking about toothbrushes and towels.
She is talking about misguided directions and failed friendships.
We are both talking about baggage and so we resolve to meet somewhere in the middle amidst a tangle of toiletries, Heavy Feelings and carry-on items.
The decision. To either focus on the tangible things: the items that will soon be packed up in my New York-bound suitcases along with the “necessities” that I will load into a clutch for a night out. Yes, those easy things: the lip gloss, the passport, the camera. Or the real baggage. The Sometimes Clunky Stuff That No One Wants To Admit To Carrying.
I sometimes wonder how it would feel to be surveyed for this kind of baggage in the airport. “Excuse me, Miss” the security guard would say as I walked through the metal detector only to encounter a shrill beeping. “Please empty your pockets or anything on you that might be causing the alarm.”
Out come a few stray pieces of a heart. A couple melodies sunken deep in my pockets. A few battered conversations that I tried so hard to forget. A pack of unexamined decisions. Too many stories that are missing their endings.
The security guard might stare at me, shake his head and turn away, but I like to think that he would be human. He would say, “Don’t worry miss, we all got this kind of baggage.”
I used to pack the most illegitimate stuff into my suitcases. Books that I had not picked up for years, but might find the time to during this vacation. Love letters that did not need my eyes to scan them one more time, especially while laying out by a poolside. Stuffed animals even when I had long outgrown the need to have one at night. All this baggage that served me no purpose and no longer reflected who I was as a person. And Yet I Clutched It.
You see, my baggage does a poor, poor job of reflecting who I am as a person today.
Yes, the pain and joy and wonder of some relationships and happenings in our lives make us who we are, but there is no need to keep carrying the stuff much long after it provides us with a new piece of our character. Oh, we could carry these conversations in our hearts forever. We could wake up every single morning and trace the syllables and examine the ways in which we swear that “goodbye” was an inadequate sense of closure, but those are some Heavy Sentences. Those Are The Hard Rocks at the Bottom of Our Suitcases. Those are the instances in our lives when we realize that punctuation does serve a radical purpose. Commas are good. Semi colons are better. But Periods Are Best… in some cases that is.
I sat down to tea with a good friend last week. Three cups of tea to be precise. And we engaged in sharing stories to bridge the time we had spent apart from one another. And as I geared up to tell her a story that she had been waiting to hear I realized how tired I was of telling it. My tongue grew tied before the words even left my mouth. My head began pounding before even reaching the beginning, never mind the climax. And so I resolved to tell the story one last time and never let it touch another ear again. Because that is the truth to some stories: They are not fit to define us. We should stick with the ones that never tailored us to be Too Small.
Oh goodness, can you see them coming? They are just over the horizon and they are carrying capital letters in their arms. They are people just waiting to begin a new story with us in mind. And I already know I don’t want to reach out my hand and leave the crumbs of old stories and hard lessons learned in their palms. I want them to know the version of myself that came out of those stories. I want them to know that some trashcan somewhere holds the memories and some dump yard elsewhere holds the pain. And that I took the resolutions and I walked.
I want them to know that I learned a valuable lesson in elementary school. That I never forgot what existed on the chalkboard as when I was a knobby-kneed second grader folded up in Aesop’s Fables: To take the moral of a story but to leave the rest. To pack the towels but to leave the mess.