Not to brag, but spending six straight months packing a bag nearly once every week really does turn one into a near packing expert.
The first trip we packed for ... we really weren't sure whether or not we'd be coming home. My general practitioner had sort of set us up mentally to expect surgery right at the beginning of this whole journey and he would have been right had there not been cancer in my lymphnodes. But in confirming multiple abnormal lymphs through all the initial OHSU tests, the plan, as most of you know, took a huge turn, and chemotherapy became the first trail.
I wish so badly that we would have taken a picture of the bags and bags that Mom and I and Jill had in tow for that trip! Oh my. Funny.
Of course, I had one bag just for the things we planned to decorate my hospital room with - tons of awesome frames, keepsakes, meaningful trinkets and verses - all things I will be re-gathering in a few weeks for my real upcoming surgery.
Another bag was dedicated to comfy hospital clothes and any button-down shirts we could find in our houses, knowing that the doctors wouldn't be allowing any extreme arm-lifting movements, if even for just putting on a shirt. (Yes, this is going to be the case in three weeks, also.)
The second trip we took, after we knew it was not for surgery, was quite down-sized... though I'll admit now that it was still far from modest. A simple one night stay - a Sunday night to Monday afternoon - and still probably three outfits, three pairs of undergarments, a couple of different coats, a large variety of jewelry and hair things (as I had not yet lost my hair), my computer charger as well as my phone charger, three or four different pairs of socks and shoes, a couple of books, a couple of crafting projects and even the "just in case" things you bring for those unexpected scenarios (i.e. sunglasses in case it's suddenly sunny in the dead middle of winter. Ha!)
The next three or four trips were the same type of over-packing. It wasn't really until the fifth week in a row that, out of sheer experience and exhaustion of doing so, I revamped my ways.
Mom - my side-kick in I-5 travel - even had a good laugh with me about it as we were leaving one week.
"Look at how much lighter and smaller our bags are!" we both exclaimed.
By week 10, I felt I'd crossed and earned a new level of packer-respect. Call me frequent traveler and pin the expert badge -->right here<-- please.
So what do my bags look like now you ask? Oh, I'm so glad you asked.
I still use the same bag - a wonderful pink duffle gifted to me from my precious friend Julie at the very beginning of this journey - and it has its place under an accent chair in my room on the days between our weekly going and coming.
In its right front pocket is one pair of clean undergarments for the one night we stay on an average basis and one to two head-wraps/scarves. The left front pocket permanently holds a small overnight bag with just the very basic hygiene essentials. The big inside compartment is emptied upon each return and is re-filled with the following basics each new week: one pair of pants, two shirts, one pair of socks, one pair of pj's, one sweater/sweatshirt/light jacket, one pair of shoes, one laptop in case, one special blanket (during infusion weeks) and small travel pillow, one docs box (on physician-appointment weeks) and one wallet, filled with at least one $20 bill (for insurance co-pay), ID and basic wallet essentials.
Yes, I stopped bringing my whole purse, as even that got old to cart around, unnecessarily.
Finally, on the very top of the bag, in another small pocket (such a great bag with all its storage!) is my phone charger, equipped with a USB option on the end of it so I could plug it into Mom's computer and save myself from bringing two chargers. All about minimalism here, peeps!
The true beauty of this system is that Sunday rolls around and since I already have an entire other bag to pack (the little mens'), effort and time is of the precious essence. Effort-wise, it's really not bad. Time-wise? 10 minutes max... that's all I need. What is that compared to before?
I never really timed myself, but just taking an estimated stab, I was probably at upwards of an hour. Really. One. hour. To pack just myself!
What a waste.
As with every leg of this journey, there is something to be said for this improvement. Sure, it's great that I am now a pretty fast packer... but I think the even bigger lesson - the even bigger GAIN - lies in the fact that I no longer pack in vain. I pack only what is necessary, just the basics of what will be needed for the trip... and no more.
In thinking about this over the past few months, I've realized that this is much like the lesson I am learning in life right now. What unnecessary things have I filled my life with that are just unneeded? What can be removed from my "bag" to lighten the load and make things more simple for myself and our family?
There are two different verses I appreciate and cling to on this topic:
Ecclesiates 2:11 - "Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil that I had expended in doing it, and behold, it was all vanity and a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun."
Psalm 119:37 - "Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me Life in your Ways."
So, ask yourself today about your "art of packing." Do you carry around a lot of unnecessary things? Do you need to review what you force yourself to pack out of sheer vanity?
Or are you just surviving (and THRIVING!) on the basic necessities, keeping your load light and your life uncluttered... allowing God to provide anything missed or unexpected?
If you are carrying tons of extra stuff just because you think you may "need" it, I have to tell you... from at least my own experience... the only thing you'll gain is a broken zipper and a very shallow life.
So what do my bags look like now you ask? Oh, I\'m so glad you asked.