Packing lite.

I’ll be away from home for one month. I planned carefully for weeks to take only what is essential; however, I can create an effective packing list only after I return home from any trip. That’s when I see the “essential” items that were unworn and unused.

I’ll discover in July what I could have lived without for four weeks. Right now, I’m en route to a month-long writing residency with a wheeled duffel that might violate the train’s baggage specifications. Technically, the bag’s dimensions are smaller than the train line’s limits, but it looks huge, like I could stand upright inside the bag. It seemed the best way to carry one month’s worth of clothing, toiletries, and writing supplies and resources, but now I worry that it will weigh me down or get me kicked off the train.

My wise decision to take the train seems stupid right now. Driving would have freed me from this worry of transporting my stuff. It would have left my husband car-less in the city for one month, but our truck remains parked most days and spends more time in our condo building than we ever do. I, on the other hand, will spend June in a one-traffic light town with local businesses that don’t operate past 5 p.m. or on weekends. I might run out of Queen Helene Cholesterol hair treatment and need emergency ethnic beauty products. I might need an espresso. What if the local bar serves only Bud or Coors to single-toothed patrons? Worse, what if there is no local bar?

I think I need to calm down.

The reason to attend the residency is to eliminate the unnecessary “needs” from my life, the things that suck time from my writing. I’ll be sharing a house with four strangers, and if nothing else, my fear of seeming weird to them will keep me focused on my work. Whereas no one knows that I can waste an hour at home with the urgent task of cleaning the bathroom grout with a toothbrush, I will seem strange and obsessed if I do this in a shared bathroom. Getting away from my routine and things will force me to acknowledge a harsh truth: I’m the one who weighs myself down and holds myself back the most. My life has many obligations, but I forget how lucky I am. My time is still largely mine to manage and structure, and if my writing gets crowded out by other things, it’s due to my bad decisions. Period.

So I’ve learned my first lessons of the month while still on the train: 1. I can’t plan for and control everything. 2. I can learn a lot, maybe the most, from the things I did not anticipate or prepare for. 3. I allow myself to be weighed down by a lot of stuff. I’ll learn at the end of the four weeks whether I’m strong enough to decide to eliminate this excess baggage.

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