October 27, 2021
A most intriguing photo of a little girl, carrying a suitcase while she walks down train tracks, can be found at Istockphoto.com. The link is https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/little-girl-with-suitcase-walking-down-train-tracks-gm108150513-1752798. I do not know who took this photo, but for years I have kept a copy taped to my desk, hoping that one day it will inspire a poem. So much intrigues me about the photo, such as where the girl is going and whether anyone knows she is missing. Or perhaps she is returning? What prompted her travel? But I also wonder about what is in her suitcase. What did she deem important enough to pack for this particular journey?
As I mentioned in my last blog, I have done a good bit of traveling this fall. While I relish the travel, I do not at all enjoy packing for my trips. My anxiety level seems tethered to the act of packing. I don’t want to forget any of the “essentials,” of course, but then I also worry about changes in the weather—what should I pack for rain? Or changes in the predicted temperatures. Do I need an extra sweater if it gets cold? Shorts and a t-shirt if it gets too hot? And what about shoes?? I can’t wear hiking books to a nice restaurant, after all. (Actually, I could. That old record is the problem.)
This whole idea of “packing light” is always my goal, but by the time I have rolled (not folded) the clothes I think I need, and put in some extras, “just in case,” and made sure I have my glasses as well as my contact lenses, I feel dismayed and discouraged at everything I have come to believe I really need. Surely I can survive without half of these items! I want to be like that little girl who can carry one suitcase lightly in her hand as she traipses down the rail of a train track.
My packing anxiety is a decent analogy for the journeys we are all on in life. Whether we are young, middle-aged, or older, we carry luggage with us, often wherever we go. What we pack each day is habitual from years of lugging around the same things. We throw in old records (you aren’t pretty enough, handsome enough, smart enough, successful enough, whatever-enough that our parents, teachers, companions, religions, told us, and we replay so often). We roll other people’s expectations of what we “should” do, be, think, believe into the suitcase. Let’s not forget past mistakes or shame. And failures? Everyone has them. Toss those in, as well. We unfortunately believe that these are the things we need, the items that define us, and if we don’t carry them with us, then who are we?
All of the spiritual mentors and leaders, from whatever world religions and philosophies, speak to us about the reality of “packing light,” or of “the open hand,” or of “letting go.” My spiritual mentor, the Christ, said, basically, that to travel this life journey, I am invited to tether to him (not my over-filled suitcase) and to let my baggage be “light.” “Come to me, all you who are weary,” he said, “and burdened, (from lugging those heavy suitcases) and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). I have often wondered if Christ had a double-meaning in mind for the word “light,” the burden being light to the touch because it no longer was something material, but something luminous, that he was inviting us to carry.
For me, I will continue to try to let things go, open my hands, and travel light, not just in my packing for physical journeys, but even more importantly, the spiritual ones. I am drawn to the idea and vision of a burden of “light.” If you need someone to help you carry your load, I’m available.
Traveling with you. ~ Rosemary firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wherever you are
on your particular ancient path
may you give up expectations,
your own and others,
of what you “should be,”
when you “should have” arrived,
what you “should have” accomplished
along with worry over whether
you have truly achieved
May you leave behind those expectations,
your own and others,
stuffed in the carry-always luggage
you dread hoisting
once more above your head
into the compartment
above, already filled
with bundles and backpacks
of those who could not
May you honestly assess
what you have chosen to carry:
old records coated in dust,
ingrained “shoulds” that did not
arise from your own innocent soul,
snapshots yellowing with age
of what people think of you,
manipulations and mind-traps
of every weight and shape
to make you into another’s image.
May you rummage through your luggage
with courage and keep only
what is you,
by you, of you, and then
may you love yourself enough
to set your suitcase aside,
trusting the lightness
of what is precious
to lead you freely onward.
© Rosemary McMahan