Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Weight of Unpacking

Here is the post I should have written at the beginning of the year, not two months into it. The post about the word that will guide my actions and reflections this year. Last year's word was "moving on," and I moved on big time: I bought a house of my very own, and I took a new job teaching creative writing in a magnet school for the arts, and I took off my clothes in public with strangers, just to hit the high points. Lots of moving on, but I already wrote about that on New Year's Day.

My word for this year is not one I chose. It chose me. It's a stray cat of a word. A too obvious word. A word I've had to mull over for several weeks before I could come to appreciate and accept it, because when it first forced itself on me, I pushed back.

I wanted a different word. A word that was a poem in itself. A word that smelled of sage and lavender and clean sheets. A word that evoked riding on the back of a stranger's motorcycle or dancing into the wee hours of the morning or sitting down to meditate or getting into the habit of doing yoga every day or baking cookies, but no ..... The word that stuck itself to me like a burr in a dog's fur is none of those things.It's not a meditative word; it's a "get shit done" word. A utilitarian word with a unattractive popping plosive right in the middle of it ...

The word I got is "unpack."

I know, right? Unpack. Unpack? I thought. Of course I need to fucking unpack! All I'd been doing was fucking unpacking. In the weeks just before Christmas I had moved a metric shit ton of stuff from my old house to my new one in the middle of the worst winter many people can remember. I'd been unfuckingpacking for weeks.

And I'm still unpacking. I have a garage full of shit I need to haul into the house and unpack, including at least 35 boxes of books. I have one parlor that still looks like this.

I didn't want "unpack" for my word for 2014. That's why I haven't written about it for two months. And that's why I haven't written much here in the past two months, because I needed to write that post first. (Well, that and the whole moving and taking a new job within a period of just a few weeks. I've been doing what I get paid to do and paying for what I bought. It all goes around.)

As I've had some time to get used to unpack though -- because this fucking word would not go away no matter how I begged the Universe for a different one -- I've come to find quite a lot of meaning in it.

Yes, I do need to physically unpack a bunch of boxes, which is why this word seems just too obvious. But there's a deeper meaning of unpacking those boxes and either keeping what's in them or getting rid of it. I've moved a lot during my adult life, and I intend for this to be my last move. I plan to die in this house. So my goal is to unpack everything, and either find a place for it or get rid of it. That's one reason the job has gone slower than I'd like. For the first time, I'm putting down tap roots.

That's the literal job of unpacking I have to continue to work on.

But as I've lived with this word for almost two months and watched my life through the lens of unpacking, I've come to realize boxes aren't the only thing I need to unpack. And they aren't the only things I have been unpacking.

So I'll be writing more about unpacking -- and either keeping what still has value or making room for something new. Because if life is a journey, I can't keep the same shit in my suitcases all the time. I need to unpack sometimes, so I can make space to repack whatever it is I need to move on, be that friends, childhood hangups born of shame and punishment, patience with boorish behavior (yes, there's a story), or the need to take care of all the people.

I have too many suitcases with too much shit in them. I need to unpack them, so I can travel to new places with a lighter load. Or so I can make room for new shit that better fits who I am now. I have, in fact, already started the unpacking process in several areas of my life while I wrestled with accepting this word over the past couple of months.

It turns out "unpack" is the perfect word to follow last year's "moving on," and now I'm looking forward to seeing how the world looks as I travel on with that concept as a companion.

Did you choose a word? How's it working out for you? Or would you rather talk about vaginas?


  1. I do have a word. My word this year is "bravery." So far? I'm kinda kicking butt with that word. It's rather awesome.

    I love that your words are building on each other. From moving on to're going places, my friend.

  2. It's the perfect word for you right now, and I'm glad you're kicking butt.

    I must be going somewhere, but there are lots of bends in the road. :-)