Pulling into our neighborhood after another adventure, this time to North Carolina for a mountaintop spring break, I felt myself ease back into the driver’s seat, release my grip on the steering wheel and audibly sigh. The trip was a lovely escape from calendars and clocks, but there is always something soothing about returning home.
Everything was as we left it – even the load of darks in the dryer (apparently they didn’t fold themselves while I was gone). Once back inside, the unpacking began -- the transition from vacation to reality. Traveling is a passion of mine. The more treks I take -- both in actual voyages and on the road of life, I realize how important this final step is. As much as there is anticipation and excitement in the packing for a trip, there is therapy and peace in the unpacking.
Pillows back on beds, iPods back in docks, jackets back on hooks. As each item is transported from car to home, it carries a story with it -- tales of the bunk beds the pillows rested on, the tune that became the theme song of the trip, the day it started out chilly, but we ended up building sand castles on the beach.
What happens to you in a day or week or month or year? Who did you meet? What did you learn? Who did you disagree with? Who pleasantly surprised you? What was the strangest thing you experienced? The funniest? Who are you worried about? What are you praying for?
From the time we leave our homes in the mornings to the time we return in the evenings, even if the only place we go is to our virtual office, we collect stories. At the end of it all, it’s necessary to unpack. After all, what good are stories if they’re never told?
Unlike unpacking a roller bag, to unpack our lives, we need a partner. This could be a parent, roommate, best friend, boy/girlfriend, teacher, coach -- whoever’s a good listener. For me, the unpacking is always with my husband. Some days we dump the contents of our daily suitcase in heaps, rattling off event after encounter in one run-on sentence. Other days we remove one item from our suitcases at a time, sharing one meeting, a new place we discovered, a confrontation, piece by piece. Some nights we take turns unpacking items from our mental luggage back and forth like a tennis match of show and tell. And there are times, due to urgency; it’s necessary for just one of us to unpack a steamer trunk of a day. The other’s carry on can wait.
And just as it’s satisfying to have my faded jeans back in my wardrobe, my clunky, silver bracelets back in their drawer and my favorite black boots back on their rack, it’s gratifying to share with my hubby about the route I took on my morning run, a quote from the book I’m reading and the phone call I had with one of our moms.
Life is a journey. You need to pack to get ready for each adventure, town and port along the way. But you also need to take time to unpack your bag, look at where you’ve been, how it will effect where you’re going and every once in a while do some laundry.
Who helps you unpack the stories of your life?
Laura L. Smith