Growing up, I was known for bringing a bag with me everywhere I went.
Even now, the habit is strong. My coworkers find it odd. My friends have long since stopped trying to understand my quirks.
“Marshalls are weird,” is the general summation. To which I heartily agree.
I never stopped to analyze why I brought the eternal bag with me every time I stepped out the door. It’s always been a part of my life, no matter where I have gone. As an evangelist’s kid, the bag was like another appendage. Stuffed with to-do lists, books, papers, and letters, the bag represented my office in a way. After all these years, I decided to try to make a connection, to find the root of my wild bag obsession.
The other day, I had to take my car into the garage for a much-needed oil change. I pulled into the parking lot, only to find the place as busy as could be. Since I was in desperate need of an oil change, I opted to wait until the mechanics found the time to work on my car. I grabbed my bag (which happened to be a large purse borrowed from a friend) and headed into the small waiting area.
You know those tiny waiting areas at garages or car dealerships? Usually, inside the small area you find a few chairs, a small table, and maybe a soda and snack machine or two. Everything is generally covered with a fine mechanic soot. Shelves line the walls, filled with bottles and bottles of oil, belts, and other endless supplies of which I have little knowledge.
This time I found the waiting area as expected, except someone had left the remains of a cake on the table. Plates, napkins, and silverware sat next to it, apparently with the hope that someone would partake. Carefully, I sat down. Hefting my purse/bag onto the table, I looked around the room. Yes, this felt familiar.
If there’s one thing I know about traveling, it’s that you can’t predict what will happen–not with vehicles or arrivals or departures. You never know where you might end up sitting and waiting for hours. Hours. Car garages. Bus garages. Church parking lots. Wal-mart parking lots. Rest areas. I have an almost perverse fear of being caught in one of these places, bagless. My rationale starts with a “what if?”–primarily about books.
What if I am stuck in an airport for hours with nothing to read?
What if I have three minutes to read that last page before Dad starts the bus engine again, signaling our departure?
What if I can finish this letter before we arrive at our hotel?
What if I forget to bring a book with me? Two books? Three? (My biggest nightmare.)
Slowly, I began to understand myself more.
I found that I was simply carrying over an old part of my life into a new phase of life.
Not that I do not need a bag with supplies occasionally, here and there. But the endless need for my bag made me realize how attached I had become.
As I sat waiting in the grimy car garage chair, people came and went. One man, who looked about fifty-ish, came in and sat across from me. He was dressed in a plaid long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and glasses. He exuded a friendly demeanor, and we easily fell into conversation. He was there to get his Smart car worked on, and we discussed the benefits of such a tiny car, he listing the pros and cons for me. I had never seen him before in my life, yet here we were, talking away.
A neighbor of his came in and they struck up their own conversation. I listened and observed. I caught the word “cancer,” and phrases like “have to go back to Tulsa” and “scrape the bone.” I had no idea who had cancer, but the conversation suddenly dipped into serious mode. Obviously, they had been friends for a long time and knew much about each other. Before they left, I had the chance to hand them both a church tract.
Later, I pondered this brief interaction. Yes, I will have opportunity to use my bag again. I am sure I will find a moment here or there to squeeze in some reading time. But the reality that I was clinging to a past habit startled me.
I did not need to clutch that bag as if it were my lifeline. Once in a while, I could come out of my shell and talk to others around me. Opportunities to witness, to make new connnections, to refresh friendships were all around me. Maybe I could leave the bag behind sometimes (gasp!).
Maybe, if I left my bag behind, I might find that I would see something with renewed clarity. Perhaps I would even find a rare opportunity in the everyday routines of life. . .or simply sit and be.
Maybe I could find new adventures–outside the box, or should I say, outside the bag.