I hate packing. I really do. Despite the image I project of overall “having it togetherness” and organization, I always wait until the last minute to pack. People who pack a week or even a day ahead of time confound me. I almost always pack within an hour or two of when I’m supposed to walk out the door. In high school I always had my friend Ellen come over to sit on my bed for moral support while I packed for trips. In college I had my roommates keep me company as I begrudgingly loaded the suitcase. Somehow packing alone often seems more than I can bear.
Now, here I am the night before a much-anticipated ten-day trip to Maine and I can’t seem to get myself to put even one, lowly flip-flop into my suitcase. I could understand dreading packing for a trip I didn’t want to go on, but I’m really excited to go home tomorrow. So I’m writing instead of packing. Which seems like a good use of my time given my re-commitment to 21.5.800 the other day when Bindu decided to extend it for an extra ten days. (Thanks girl. You’ve given me a reason to postpone the packing for another hour or so.)
This tendency towards last-minute packing is genetic. My dad would take a big hero, winter camping trip every year when I was growing up. Inevitably, the night before he was leaving, he would take a late-night trip to L.L. Bean’s flagship store ten minutes up US Route One from our house. When I say late night I mean 1:00 or 2:00am…far past normal camping supply shopping hours. (Luckily L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine is open twenty-four hours a day. Fun fact: the store was built without locks on the doors because it’s never closed. Not once. Not ever.)
When my dad does finally put things in a suitcase, though, it is done with the same exquisite attention to detail as a French pastry chef crafting a mille-feuille. Witnessing my father pack a bag reminds one that God is in the details. If you’ve ever seen the film As Good As it Gets you may recall the scene when Jack Nicholson is preparing for his road trip with Helen Hunt. His garments, toiletries, music collection, and accessories are laid out on the bed with the same care one might organize and itemize the crowned jewels. My mom and I burst into hysterical laughter when we watched the movie because it was as though they had stolen the idea for the scene from my father’s life. I shall be eternally grateful for the acute special awareness and attention to visual detail that I inherited from my dad (and for the fact that this attention to detail leans toward obsessive compulsive behavior in only small, isolated and rather insignificant moments.) No one can pack a bag, a trunk, or a cooler like my dad. If you want to put more things in a space than that space should seemingly be able to hold, Dr. Kenneth Moller, III (aka, my dad) is your man.
Its not intense attention to detail that derails me with my packing, though. (The above story about my dad has been included more for interest and packing history than as an explanation for my aversion to the activity itself.) I think it has more to do with the fact that I gain a great sense of security and confidence from knowing that I have the right outfit for a given occasion. When I was in elementary and middle school I would lay my school clothes out the night before in the shape of a little human beside my bed, complete with socks, underwear, and accessories layered in and placed in the appropriate locations. My mother would often bet startled when she came to tuck me in because it looked like there was a random person lying on my floor. When I’m nervous about a presentation or event, if I can simply visualize myself in the correct outfit everything suddenly seems as though it’s going to be okay. So I think its safe to say that my procrastination around packing has to do with my obsession with the “perfect outfit.” Since it’s unlikely that I will ever truly put together the “perfect outfit” I am probably avoiding packing because I have set myself up for inevitable failure.
I am aware that this chronicling of my packing neurosis may make me sound vain. I mean seriously, my confidence and sense of security in the world comes from having the “perfect outfi”t? Yes. I suppose I’m somewhat proud to answer affirmatively to that question. Because the truth is, if I know that everything is in order on the outside —if my hair looks okay, my nails are done, my eyebrows are waxed, my outfit is rocking, and I’m not sporting any runs, wrinkles, stains, or smears —then I can let what’s on the inside really shine on through. And most of the time what’s on the inside is pretty great, valuable stuff that’s worth sharing, especially if I feel like it’s packaged in the right ensemble.
So thanks for reading as I unraveled my packing aversion. I always know that there’s something bigger behind the silly things in life that I avoid. Avoidance is incredibly rich with information about what’s going on below the surface. For me it seems that my avoidance is a layer of procrastination icing on a cupcake of perfectionism and a desire to have everything under control. It’s fun when all roads of self-exploration lead pretty much back to the same destination. At least I’m consistent.
Okay, there’s an empty suitcase calling my name…and some perfect outfits to be planned and packed.
What tasks are you avoiding?
Do you like to pack?
Do you have any tips on packing?
What do you think is below your procrastination or avoidance?