Early in the morning, the house is so quiet but the noise in my head is so loud. What used to be my beloved sleep time has turned into a nightly fist fight with my thoughts that prevent me from restful slumber. I am sorting out the clutter that has taken over after I began unpacking years of bags that have sat undisturbed in a closet. I willingly removed them, studying them carefully, knowing that once I pulled open the first zipper, the overstuffed suitcases would first exhale, appreciating the freedom of being able to enjoy some oxygen after such a long stretch of cramming so much into a decidedly inadequate space. Then the stuffing would begin to slowly explode. The contents would start to jut out, taking in the air and filling the newly-acquired space.
Unpacking our luggage typically represents that we have either arrived at our destination or we have returned from our journey. There is a comfort that comes from placing our belongings back into their rightful homes, shirts back to the drawers they live in each day waiting to be called into rotation, toiletries that go back into the cabinets, awaiting their next tour of duty. We move from the transience of travel to the permanence of home.
My bags serve a different purpose.
They are storage devices. Rather than filling them with most favorite items that will comfort me as I travel on my adventures, they store the items that I would prefer not to look at. Locking these pieces of me up behind nylon enclosures with strong metal zippers ensures that, despite the fray that appears on the seams after years of wear, they will be safe and secure and unpacked only when I have found the space to accommodate the contents. I do not have closets large enough to store all my luggage so I frequently, out of the corner of my eye, catch sight of my bags, begging to be opened, screaming for relief from the pressure of holding all that I have stuffed into them, year after year, asking them to endure just one more item, pushing down on the tops to pull the zipper closed and reinforcing my protection from the innards. I have imprisoned my life in those bags, comforting myself with the belief that the day will arrive when I am fortified enough to begin to pull back the zippers, hear the exhale and begin to sort through the mess that has been unceremoniously stored inside.
I suppose there should be relief in knowing that the bags are opened and the contents are leaking out but I worry that perhaps they no longer could endure the stress of restraining their stuffing. Rather than bravely tackling the process of opening each one, examining the goods and placing them in piles to be put into their proper place, I might simply be running interference to ensure that the overflow resulting from a rip, a tear of the fabric, will not drown me. Instead of a controlled containment, there are wayward items flying all over the place. It may all be damage control or, maybe, the time has come.
And I cannot help but wonder if I am actually unpacking the bags or if they are, indeed, unpacking me.