Unpacking the Suitcase

Reflecting is like unpacking a suitcase.

First, it kind of sits on the floor of your messy room, forgotten because in the rush of returning to your life you had other priorities.

Then, you selectively pull out the bits that demand your attention.  Your favorite dress.  A heart that still gives like the bruised skin of that summer’s peaches.  All your chargers for your various electronics.  Flashes of memories in downward dog with upside down Himalayas.  The books you cared about enough to carry around with you.  Memories of Cambodia, of Nepal, of times you pushed yourself physically until you were quite literally sick out of foolish stubbornness.  Your favorite hat.  The friendly smile of the female custom officer at Heathrow asking you where you got the hat.  Montreal.  The same floppy wool hat kept the midnight sun out of your eyes in Reykjavik.  The memories, interwoven together in a seemingly never ending spiral, tumble out of the suitcase and are haphazardly tucked away where they belong.  They collect dust like the intentions of a yarn stash.  Like the scrapbook you meant to make after your trip to Disney World as a teenager.

The suitcase, now mostly empty, sits in the bottom of the closet for awhile.
Every now and then you’ll remember that’s where you left that particular necklace you want to wear.  In retrieving the necklace, out will come a collection of sand from sleeping in the desert of Rajasthan next to a drunk guide and a camel so close its farting is the only breeze, the only sound, on that desert night.

A year on, you’re still discovering grains of sand.

I sat in a job interview last week.  Pearls.  Heels.  Suit skirt.  Hose.  My adult clothes, my adult posture, my adult smile and small talk, with my resume laid out before us.
And I spoke with a gentleman who must have been in the first decade of Peace Corps volunteers.  He’s one of the interviewers and yet we have something in common:  that suitcase is still surprising us with lessons.  For him, this was a lifetime ago.
For me, Vietnam was five years ago.  India a year ago.  But I can see it.

I can see doing yoga two decades from now and still listening to the yogi’s deep voice intone at the beginning of shavasana.  I can see being a grandmother or great aunt and still pushing Rajasthani sand around into shapes and theories and images of myself, only to have them blown away by the memory of a camel’s fart.

I’m not sure if I will ever stop unpacking this suitcase.

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