We recently moved to a new house twenty miles from our last one. The move happened while I was traveling, so I returned to a new home with furniture haphazardly stashed in corners and sixty boxes stacked in clusters throughout the house and garage. Normally I hate clutter, but I’m as giddy as a girl at her birthday party. Six of my eight boxes have been taped shut for two and a half years. Though they are wrapped in cardboard skins and labeled with black sharpie, I’m as delighted to open these boxes as I would any present lovingly wrapped in the most festive paper.
When I moved to Arizona in April of 2010, I thought I would only be here for few months until I found that new, great job. My regular readers know the ensuing saga which includes 9 months of unemployment, a 6 month government contract job and a few patched-together ministry positions. Now November 2012, I’m still waiting for that elusive “right fit” and gainful employment to match my education and experience. I still don’t know that I will stay here long-term, but somehow this third inter-Arizona move (apartment to house to house) has shifted something in me. I’m finally allowing myself to unpack.
I’m not going to psycho-analyze what kept me from unpacking or what is allowing me to unpack now. I honestly don’t care. All I know is that it feels really good to sneeze my way through these dusty boxes, to tear off the packing tape and lift the folded flaps to reveal what’s inside.
There’s a certain thrill in discovering things I forgot I had and didn’t know I missed like my cobalt blue flannel sheets which make me feel like I’m floating in warm detergent on crisp winter mornings. Then there are moments of sheer bafflement over the things I decided to move across the country like the three bars of soap which melted all over my cherry wood jewelry box. I laugh sheepishly as I pull out baggies of costume jewelry – bracelets, necklaces, dangly earrings – because I can’t recall a single moment of missing jewelry. I hang on to it because maybe one day I will be one of those women who cares to accessorize. Though I doubt it will ever happen, I stuff the jewelry all in a new drawer with an amused snort.
Of course, the dessert in all of this unpacking is uncovering the items I love and regularly missed: a white ceramic vase stamped with colorful sparrows that I bought on a trip to Italy with my mother and cousin, the beautiful bed quilt that as a young professional I scrimped and saved for months to buy, and my complete collection of The Cosby Show. Items like these allow me relive to the stories of my personal history. As I watch the memories reel in my mind like a film, they link me to adventures and accomplishments and reconnect me to feelings like simple happiness or lazy Saturday afternoon contentedness. Somehow the haggard world around me seems more manageable when I watch the Cliff and Claire Huxtable coach Theo through dyslexia or discipline Vanessa after her impulsive and unsanctioned road trip to a rock concert. Unpacking these boxes has reminded me that life is best lived with candor, humor, caring and togetherness.
Yesterday I opened up my most cherished possessions, my books and my art. I’m sure that I will not want to live in a world where we only experience books and stories on the screens of Nooks and Kindles. When I was eighteen I purchased a 1950 special edition, color illustrated copy of The Jungle Book. I’m saving it for the day when I can curl up with my daughter and take turns reading Mowgli’s adventures aloud. (Pity the fools who think that weightless e-books with their shiny plastic casings are more valuable than to touch, smell, taste, enliven and share a story!)
Art is just as precious to me. I own several original pieces of art. One of my favorites is a drawing of a dandelion puff in the foreground of a vibrant garden. It seems that the delicate white seeds are waiting to dance away on the first gentle breeze. The drawing captures the precarious beauty of a weed that litters front yards around the world. I met the artist in a gallery and spoke with her about her work. What’s incredible about her art is not only that she creates photo-quality drawings using colored pencils, but that she puts hundreds of hours into each small piece. She explained that the bold swatch of burnished brown in the stem of the dandelion is not made with a brown pencil, but an intricate overlapping of many colors to give the object its depth and life-like quality. Admiring her care to create as much as the work itself, I went home carrying a prize – a small piece of her work and her spirit.
Almost all of the boxes are unpacked now. Though I’m no closer to a permanent job than I was two years ago, I feel much more settled, and it’s not about where I am in the world or how far along my career path, but who I am inside myself. The elusive job may be a month or a few years way, but something within me has changed. I’m no longer the anxious, I’ve-got-to-find-the-answer-now person who was always leaning on her toes to peer around the next bend expecting to find the grand prize tied up in a big crimson bow. I live with the daily knowledge that I am in control of almost nothing. But that’s just it. I live. And that’s much better than what I used to be – paralyzed by the fear of my inability to control my world or order my life in a storybook fashion.
I’ve let go of the worry that I’m pushing farther into my 30s with a stagnant IRA and no significant bump in income since I graduated from college. I’m living my real life with decent health, authentic and trusting relationships, food to nourish me, a deepening friendship with Jesus, the freedom to let myself cry and laugh in equal portions, and a caring self-awareness. I am well in all the ways that matter. Unpacked, I realize that I’m in a good place, and I hope to stay here for a long, long time.