Friday, July 26, 2013

The Bag Lady

I dislike a junky car, which is one of the reasons why I don’t like to go anywhere with my husband if we have to go in his vehicle. The floor of his truck is encrusted with grime and is filled with trash. By comparison, my own vehicle is a near spotless paradise. The outside may need washing, but the inside is clutter-free, and you don’t have to move a ton of stuff just to sit down. So, imagine my surprise when I realized the other day that my SUV has suddenly become a glaring example of a disorganized junk heap.

Fortunately, my vehicle still pales in comparison to the disaster that is my husband’s truck. Instead of loose mess everywhere, I have several bags: three in the backseat and one in the front passenger floorboard.

The contents of these bags are specific to the different hats I’m wearing these days. My Harry Potter bag has the prompt book and sound cues for the play (Crimes of the Heart) I’m directing this summer. The pink bag I purchased at a rummage sale for .50 cents contains the clothes that have been rejected from that play. The bag I bought in England, depicting Queen Elizabeth II on 50 pound bank notes, houses the papers I have yet to grade for the composition and literature courses I’m teaching this term. The recycled-material bag featuring a girl riding a bicycle with “She traveled far” embossed on the front holds my writing materials for upcoming articles and assignments. My purse counts as a bag, too, and in it are the contents one needs for being a mother and wife: credit cards.

I’m rather ashamed to admit that my purse, my family bag, is the smallest of the lot right now. If I were to get all psycho-analytical babble-speak for a moment, I’d have to come to the conclusion that my family receives the least of my attention at this time, which happens to be true. The other areas of my life have crowded in on my family responsibilities, and I am so overwhelmed by these other duties until I go home each night and just collapse. My son has accused me more than once this summer of being too tired or too busy to talk with him. My Russian daughter is visiting and is only here for 20 more days. I feel as if I’ve ignored her, which upsets me to no end because this is her first visit in three years. In the mornings, I drop off my step-daughter for day camp, and sometimes I do not see her again until the next morning when it’s time to repeat the process. My husband now knows how I feel when I become a hunting widow during deer season.

The fact that two of my bags relate to my directorial duties lets me know which aspect of my life is dominating it. I love the theater, and I have enjoyed directing this play. At the same time, I have truly felt its consumption. If I didn’t have so many other things going on right now, and if I had more theater production under my belt, perhaps the responsibilities associated with the show wouldn’t be quite as daunting. If it were not for my assistant director and other support team members, I’d be a nervous wreck.

What’s most fascinating about the bags, though, is how they’ve compartmentalized my life and how, over time, the weight of each shifts. That shift represents how the load gets heavier or lighter for each part of my life. For example, soon I’ll be finished with my summer classes, so I can empty out my teaching bag for a few weeks. The last article I have due for a while will be submitted shortly after that, so I can put aside my writing bag, too. The play will close mid-August, and we won’t do anything with the theater for a few months, so that heavy load will lighten. Perhaps then, I can allow all of the weight to shift to my family bag; it’s too bad that by the time that shift happens, my Russian child will be gone.

Sometimes, I do get the urge to de-clutter and to just toss a bag or two. Yet, if I were I to throw away just one of the bags, I’d lose part of who I am as a person. Even when some bags get too heavy to tote, I still carry them. I have to because I’m a mother, wife, teacher, writer, and director. I enjoy all my roles, so I love my bags and their contents, even when some of them overwhelm me.

So, if you see my silver Trailblazer parked somewhere and get curious as to which aspect of my life is in control, just take a peek and see which bag looks heaviest. But just so you know, I never leave my purse in my vehicle. Its contents, like my family, are just too valuable to leave behind. Even though they are the smallest bag right now, they are still and always the most important one.