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.
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 wallet. And 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.
Since some Mondays are worse than Sallie Mae, I created a little breakfast club/secret society to help kick Mondays off right. You are reading me right. Every Monday. Me. You. We roll out via email and your morning brew. I promise to meet you with only the good stuff. Highly recommended for movers, shakers, and original gangsters. No rules. You feeling me, boo?