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A Key to the Art of Packing & Life - Simplify

I pack a lot.  Over the years I’ve packed for trips to somewhere many, many times a year.  I’ve packed for long trips, short weekend trips, business trips, small town destination trips, big metropolitan city visits, snow skiing trips, mountain treks living out of a backpack, and nothing but a swimsuit, shorts & a sundress weekend at the beach kind of trips.  I like to think of myself as being near expert level at this point, but there are still times where I find myself with an enormous bag full of stuff that ends up being a pain to haul around.  

There are so many ways we can use packing as an analogy for life but today I’m focusing on what happens when I try to cram too many things into one trip. 

This past weekend we drove to the Alps to meet some friends from the US.  My girlfriend didn't want to go hiking so I was going to run on Saturday, in goes my running stuff.  I still very much wanted to be able to hike while there so I planned to do that with my husband on Sunday after our friends left in the morning, in went the hiking boots and clothes.  It was her birthday so I wanted to take them someplace nice for dinner on Saturday night...hmmm, better take those dressier clothes and shoes too.  And we're going to have a lot of just hanging out time so I need those flip-flops and casual clothes.  The weather is so unpredictable in the mountains I better take layers and my rain jacket.  And I really do hate how long it takes those hotel hair dryers to dry my hair, so what the heck, I'll throw in my full size hair dryer too.  My enormous backpack that I've lived out of for weeks (including food, shelter, water, etc.) was completely stuffed for a two night stay.  Hell, I did the entire 170 kilometers of the Tour du Mont Blanc with a backpack a third of the size of that pack.

It occurred to me as I was uncomfortably lugging my pack around (and getting grief from my husband about having to get it in our Mini Cooper with his and a friend's bags and hiking gear) that there is another bit of a life lesson in this packing business.

It’s very similar in life when I am trying to cram too many things in.  I'm trying to be too many things to too many people, cramming too many things into 24 hour periods.  I feel stretched too thin and not myself.  Yes I'll volunteer for that, run this business and partner in that one, while working on this new product offering, take these classes, sign up for this mastermind group, strive for domestic goddess like status (and let's be honest, this is just not in my DNA), work on my book, learn French, learn German, stay in touch (even with people who don't reciprocate?), travel often (and hey - I really should give travel writing a go), and I really need to do better, dig in and lose that last 10lbs! I won't go on because many of you are familiar with the insanity and even go way beyond what I can imagine with all the pressure you’re putting on yourself.

This all leads to being too busy and frazzled.  I'm out of my rhythm and things like exercise start to go by the wayside or I’m in zealot mode, overdo it and exhaust myself.  I make poor choices.  I’m tired.  Life becomes chaotic.  I start accumulating stuff I don't need to try to make myself feel better about the fact that I'm stressed and tired.  I'm late for meetings, missing time with people that are important to me.  I wake up one morning completely baffled and wondering what psycho thought this was all a good idea.  If I would just slow down, prioritize, and drop what isn't necessary life would be so much simpler.  Simplify, simplify, simplify and focus on what is truly needed and important.

It is a whole lot like the awkwardness and discomfort of lugging that overstuffed backpack around.  All of it only serves to encumber me, slow me down, make me cranky, and cause me to knock into things, or worse - people, when I turn around because I haven't gotten accustomed to how much space I take up with all this shit.  It all takes energy and space that should be freed up for more important things.  I miss out on life in the moment because I'm too busy bitching about how heavy it all is.

I bring it all on myself.  I'm the one packing the bag.  I get to choose what goes in and what stays out.  This is a truth that is hard to swallow sometimes but it is a fact.  We decide who and what we put in and keep out of our lives.  We have to be smart about what we pack for the journey we're on at the moment.  Maybe we can do it all, just not all at the same time.

I wrote the first part of this yesterday and have one more thought I would like to add.  I leave early tomorrow morning for a nine day biking trip through the Loire Valley to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.  Earlier this morning I was trying to figure out how best to pack.  I have a small bike bag on the back for my stuff.  We'll be having nice French dinners, biking all day and visiting beautiful chateaus.  I am super excited.  Packing for this is a challenge though.  I like to think of it as more of an art really.  I was also worrying over all I need to do before we go, getting myself good and stressed out.  And as I was sitting there worrying over it all I broke out laughing at myself.  What wonderful challenges to have!  I am so blessed.  Many of us are incredibly blessed to have several different opportunities and interests, wonderful people in our lives, our health we get to take care of and many amazing ways to learn new things and information.  I know there is a lot of bad in the world, a lot to take care of and worry about.  But there is a lot of good too.  There is so much to be grateful for when we stop, breathe and look around us.  We still need to plan and prioritize, to pack our lives appropriately according to what is most important to us right now, but what a gift and wonderful challenge to get to have.  We get to create our lives through the choices we make about what we'll do, who we'll do it with and how we'll do it.  So decide what kind of trip you want to be on right now, and pack your life accordingly.

Have a safe and wonderful Labor Day holiday!