Thursday, May 26, 2016

Why I Haven't Unpacked My Toiletries Bag

image of toiletries bag and carry-on
It's not because I have a separate toiletries bag for travel.  I never fully unpack.  When we go on vacation, Joey unpacks his things into the closet and dresser drawers in a hotel - I don't.  I always keep my things  safely in the suitcase or bag - and live out of it. But not just when we're on vacation.  We've been in our house for awhile now, and my daughter recently asked me pointedly why I haven't unpacked my toiletries bag into the nice empty drawer in my bathroom.  And I realized that it's actually been years since I've unpacked my toiletries bag...and, I'll go ahead and admit, years since I've unpacked my carry-on.  I use what I need out of them. Daily.  When I mentioned this in the Velvet Ashes book club (discussing Looming Transitions), Amy encouraged me to write a poem about it.  I began to understand why I don't fully unpack.   

There's something "gallant" 
in not unpacking - 
a certain nobility, 
a demonstration of willingness 
to be always ready to go 
when the cloud moves.  

But that's not why.

The Israelites 
put up their tents 
when the cloud stopped over one place.

Me - 
I leave mine packed up.  

It's inconvenient, 
I'm just not good at packing.
This way, 
I take out what I need
when I need it 
and carefully put it back 
in it's "packed- up" place
when I'm done with it.

and damp when it rains
I am ever ready 
when the cloud moves on

It's not a protest
against being in this place - 
I've loved 
and embraced 
every place we've been. 

But I stay packed.  
I'm not good at packing.

I don't like to pack
I like knowing I have everything in one place

But that's not why. 

 I'm afraid
that once I unpack it
I'll never get it all packed again.

I'm afraid 
I'll Ieave important things 
Things I need
things that are dear to me

I'm afraid
of losing them.

I'm afraid
of losing part of myself
leaving myself behind 
as the caravan moves on
and only discovering the loss
when it's too far
and too late
to recover 
to collect
what was left behind.

So, while everyone else
is setting up their tents
unpacking their things
I keep mine carefully folded.

it's starting to rain.
And I'm getting wet.

And - 
Oh God - 
Lord of the cloud
and the fire
and the journey

can I trust You
to give me the time I need
to unpack and pack again?
Will You not move on 
when I'm still in the middle
of the process?   

Will I have to scramble
after the cloud
with my belongings 
half packed 
and straggling in a mess
clenching the toothbrush in my teeth
stuffing my notebook in a pocket
mashing everything in
and things spilling out behind me   
while I try to lug my bags 
as I chase after You? 

Leaving pieces of 
of me

dotting the lonely landscape as it stretches out
to the horizon
Can I trust You
that if

I leave something important
that if

something I loves spills out

in the distance  
You will

in other ways
other things
along the way
or when we get where we're going
Can I trust You
that where we're going IS 
the destination - 
and will have everything I need?
That whatever I lose along the way
You can hold?
that You hold all these things?

Even all these pieces of myself
that I've scattered
all across these lands and ways
of Yours
these bits of me
these places I've been
people I have known
I am so afraid 
I will NEVER get it all back together again
my tears
my breath ragged
as I think I might lose it all

as I lose it all
everything that I have to lose
that I 

have to 

already lost 

in You
  I am already lost in You

...where everything is found.
                                             (Mark 8:35)


I know
You will never lose any part of me
                                            (John 10:28)
that doesn't need to be lost.

I know
Even if it all flies apart
and it will all fly apart         
(Heb. 12:26-29)
if I lose all these things
and all of me
I will never lose

All I ever had
and have
is in You.
                                (Col. 3:1-4)

I'm wondering...

if maybe... 
it's time for me to unpack... 

Linking up with Velvet Ashes at The Grove where the theme this week is "ReEntry"

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Link to: ReEntry

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  1. Michele, you have such a gift for expressing truth in beautiful, accessible ways. I'm a little teary-eyed. I'm so glad you followed Amy's suggestion to put this global nomad prayer into poetry.

    1. Thank you, Patty! I'm glad I followed her suggestion, too. At first I thought it was just quirky that I don't unpack certain things ever. Sometimes I don't quite grasp what's going on inside me until I write about it. I guess the process is one of my ways of praying through it -

  2. Wow! Thank you for sharing something so personal, and putting into words so beautifully what the rest of us wish we could and haven't been able to! I absolutely love your poetry and the imagery you evoke! I look forward to your poems every week and am inspired to start writing my own. If I get up the courage, I'll let you know. Until then, never put down your pen!

    1. I can't wait to read one of your poems, Hadassah, do write your own! It's interesting how it can take courage to write a poem. It seems that sharing the poem would need courage, not writing it. But actually, it DOES take courage to sit down and write ...I think because of the fear that it won't happen, won't work out - but ALSO the fear of exposing what's in our hearts even to's a wonderful way to process (for me) - but processing can be scary.
      Do let me know if you start writing poetry! I'm excited about it and have already started praying for your first poems...:-)

    2. ..I guess I should say praying for you for courage to write the poems...:-)

  3. Yesterday I opened the (empty) drawer in my bathroom looking for the toothpaste. It wasn't there, of course, it's still in my toiletries bag. But I thought that maybe that was a break through of sorts - if I'm looking for it in the drawer rather than the bag,maybe I'll eventually move it into the drawer....

  4. thanks so much for sharing! I love to think about the why's. I tend to be like your husband and unpack it all as soon as I'm walking in the door. That being said I do often forget things. It was good to read this as we are entering a time of being in the US (for an undetermined amount of time) to raise funds. I am worried about how long it will take and what the eb and pull of our journey will look like. Thank you for being honest about how you feel

    1. I think there's a lot to be said for unpacking it all as soon as you walk in the door! Then you're done - and it's easier to live, I think, out of drawers and closets than trying to keep everything close and collected. It IS partly my organizational skills (or lack of them) that influences me not wanting to unpack - because it's such an effort to pack again - BUT - it's largely fear over what I will lose.

      Oh, so you are like us, then, we are here indefinitely as well - but to launch our kids ...
      Praying for you that this part of your journey will be like an oasis - and not a desert!

  5. Michele, I love the way you've unpacked your feelings about unpacking, discovering your fears and your issues with trust and connecting with the Israelites on their journeying. He can hold all the pieces that have been scattered. He is holding you as you unpack.

    1. Yes! He CAN hold all the pieces that have been scattered, DOES hold them. He is holding me - and helping me unpack.
      Last night I put my toothbrush and toothpaste in the drawer. Still have a toiletries bag full of stuff, but I'm working on it. :-)

  6. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this. And I feel loved that you would write this :)

  7. Thanks for writing this beautiful poem. I don't have a gift with words, but I love to read other's writing. :) It's also interesting for me to see how other people think and what is behind their actions. Personally, I'm the type to unpack right away. If we're going into a hotel, my husband and kids are ready to take off and explore. I can't really relax until things are unpacked. There's something I hate about unfinished tasks in general. I was reminded about this recently because there is something that is more along the lines of a group project. I can't finish and check it off the list, because I have to wait for someone else to do their part. I had to stop and think about why it bothers me. I have to learn letting go of control and patience.

    1. You know, Anna, it's also really interesting that often what is behind someone's actions can be the same thing behind someone else's opposite actions...and that is fascinating to me. I do have things that I want to do right away, and that I can't relax fully until they are done. (Unpacking my toiletries bag isn't one of them :-) ). Then I have other things that I can easily put off. So somewhere it's a matter of what are priorities and also what things are going to weigh heavy on me and sort of "hang over my head" if they aren't done...
      ...but the toiletries mentioned's interesting to me that this need to control manifests itself in different ways - in some way I am trying to control my world, my life, by NOT unpacking it and keeping it all sounds like (maybe?) for you, it would be opposite...I wonder how much of those radical differences in HOW we try to control has to do with WHY we feel the need to control our worlds (although I know some of it is personality).
      I've been realizing that my "issue" with not unpacking my toiletries bag also manifests in other ways in my life (not just my luggage!) ...I keep things close, I'm careful about what I share and what I say and I'm beginning to understand (not that that's wrong to be careful, but I take it too extremes) that that is also an attempt to keep the pieces together, a fear that once these pieces are scattered out there I won't be able to collect them up again..(but why do I think I need to?) I'm exploring that...stopping and thinking, like you said, about what is behind all that - and trying to learn to let go of control...
      thank you for taking the time to comment, Anna! Your thoughts have propelled me down another road (or farther down the same road?) in understanding the real issues with my toiletries bag (which are way deeper than I suspected).

  8. Thank you. In the middle of re-entry and (sigh) all that entails...thank you. Relating through tears and praising through truths mentioned here! <>< dawn

    1. There is a certain joy in it (like reunions) and yet it's so hard, too. Thanks, Dawn, for dropping by and letting our re-entry journeys connect...

  9. YES! THIS! I very rarely get emotional when I read things on the internet. But I'm sitting here - not in my country-of-work OR my passport country but holidaying with my former roommate in her new country-of-work. I read it out to her, after getting emotional reading it to myself. :-)

    You put your baggage into luggage terms! HAHA!

    I teach (homeschool) MKs. My first student of 13 years ago is getting married this winter. I'm not sure how I'm going to go to the wedding. But I WILL. My mom wondered if they would webcam the wedding and I could see it that way. I told her that was not acceptable. If I wouldn't attend my brother's wedding via webcam, then I wouldn't for my student. They are both family.

    I'm SOOO looking forward to heaven where my friends and family of all kinds will be in one time and place. NO MORE GOODBYES! No more leaving. No more packing. No more transitions! No more unpacking. I'll be HOME!

    1. Carolyn, I love how you put that "You put your baggage into luggage terms!"!!! YES, that's so true!

      And so ironic that you were writing your comment not from country one or country two but from yet a third one - so appropriate somehow...

      I wish that we had had someone to homeschool my kids. :-) I did it myself, and I DID enjoy a lot of it (like all the reading) but it would have been nice to have some help. So three cheers for you!

      OH, I am so with you, looking forward to the time when all those we love will be in one time and place, no more goodbyes, YES! no more leaving and packing and unpacking and transitions - I know I am echoing you here, but what you said deserves an echo. :-)