I hate unpacking.
I find it inconvenient, frustrating, and simply a waste of time. Whether the item to unpack is an overnight bag from a weekend adventure, or everything I own in a cross-country move. I simply hate it.
You see, I’m a lover. I want to dive right into life. I want to meet the people, drink the coffee, and see the town. I want to discover how many stars I can see from my backyard on any given night. I want to memorize the skyline. I want to find old bookstores and hidden coffee shops and outdoor markets with sunflowers and fresh blueberries. I want to, for goodness’ sake, get anywhere with using the navigation on my iPhone.
I don’t want to find a new space for every possession I found worthy of a cross-country move. I don’t want to rewash dishes that have sat in cardboard boxes or iron clothes that have been tightly shoved in suitcases. I don’t want to be reminded that I have too many t-shirts, and books, and coffee mugs.
But my recent cross-country move has forced me to face a reality that ran far deeper than the boxes in the bedroom:
I need to unpack.
Not just for aesthetics, but for my heart.
I realized that these habits represent far more than my tendencies in moving to a new home, or city, or state. It’s not just the “inconvenience” of unpacking. It’s the refusal to sift through what I carry. And it has nothing to do with the dishes in my cabinet.
No. It’s the fear of failing, the strained friendships, the heartbreaks, and the feeling like I’ve disappointed the people I love. It’s the familiarity I thought I was so ready to leave, but now miss more desperately than I ever thought possible. It’s the insecurities, the fear, and the doubting of everything I once felt sure of.
It’s refusing to unpack a thousand experiences worth of memory, and joy, and hurt. It’s the fear of what I might find hiding behind my deepest longings. The comments that hurt for reasons I don’t want to understand. The comparison I subject myself to when I see the posting of distant friends litter my newsfeed, reminding me of all the things I’m not. It’s the inclination to run at the first sign of vulnerability, and it’s a pitifully dreadful impulse.
Would you take some time to unpack?
Would you lean in to the full on, all out, renovation of your worthy-of-wholeness heart? Would you, piece by piece, empty the boxes you’ve shoved in the attic and left unlabeled, hoping to avoid the shame of all you know you put inside? Would you take out every article of clothing with intentionality and care, as if it was best outfit you’ve ever owned? You know, the pink eyelet dress with strappy brown wedges, or the flowy sky blue sweater that makes you feel like a superhero. Treat it all that way. And taking each piece, fingering a myriad of fabrics, decide what can stay and what must go.
Half the dread of unpacking is knowing that we carry too much. It’s knowing that we hoard experiences for our self loathing and destruction. It’s knowing that we have to face it if we’re going to let it go.
Here’s the thing: so much of what you’ll find packed away in those boxes should stay. You may need to do a little dusting, but find a place on the shelf you pass every evening and celebrate life every time you steal a glance. Decide why it should stay, and then rejoice that you have it, that it’s yours.
But so much needs to go. Dig deep down and find the strength to say goodbye. Carefully box up your bitterness and mark it for the trash. Take each ounce of fear and toss it out. Look under the bed and in the drawer of your nightstand and find the doubt you talk to on the nights you can’t sleep. Make sure there’s not a hint remaining, and throw it away. Find every piece of “I-wish-it-were-different” hiding in the corners and repurpose it. Our deepest hurt can set the stage for our greatest glimpses of glory, and then (and only then) it can stay.