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Packing Strategies For Midlife, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:46am

Up early. Time to pack.

I like packing, as long as I have enough time. My strategy is to put everything out the day before I go. That allows me to survey the territory (otherwise known as look at stacks and stacks of my stuff), and consider. When I have time to look, I usually get it right.

When I hurry, I almost always get it wrong.

Younger, I bulled ahead, charging, horns lowered, shoulders working. What I lacked in finesse or foresight I made up for in stamina and quick reflexes. Now I know I have to see things to think about them. It’s hard to see when I rush around.

Cognitive skills come in many styles. Some people can only think about things they have picked up, held, or walked with. Some people have to effectively embroider anything they are going to know. Visual, gross motor, small motor, whatever your bent, when you are older and faced with something important you’ve got to rely on the tried and true. You need a sharply honed sense of your cognitive habits and skills.

But I look ahead. This approach to aging can lead to an ever-closing spiral of limiting rituals. If you never see anything new, can you still know anything new? If you try to focus on what you know you’re good at, do you find yourself doing less and less? The young suffer little repercussion from waste of time and effort. They can flail. Little damage done. Just compensate for thoughtlessness with activity. Sheer volume of new experience will guarantee anyone who keeps their eyes open some new knowledge. I’m 53. The shift is real.

In midlife you’ve got youth and age to either side, and you want to understand each so as to sit fully in your self. Whether or not your self is sitting on a sofa.

This morning I’m just packing. I’m only 53. No expectation that the meaning of our time on this earth will reveal itself, with trumpets. Harps. Or timpani. At least not this morning. A brown paisley belt lies on the settee. I’m also bringing sunhat, camera, and European plug adaptors. Time to move wet laundry from washer to dryer. The cycle complete alert has buzzed.

18 Responses

  1. i made the mistake of packing for a term at harvard at the conclusion of my going-away party and arrived in cambridge with a suitcase full of underwear and dried cranberries. bless the improvisational brio of the young.

  2. Love your perspective on this one Miss LPC, you articulate perfectly the "seeing and feeling" connection. Oddly, we diverge completely on the issue of packing: I hate it. Completely loathe the entire process.

    And we do love timpani, it adds that certain something to the appropriate music.

    Hope you enjoy a splendid weekend,

  3. I find packing to be a calming ritual. I take my time, I carefully choose my clothes and I pack them neatly. It always amazes me that as a woman with a big wardrobe, I can get away with very few items of clothing when I travel. Why can't I do that in my real life?
    It sounds like you are going on a lovely European vacation and so soon after your last trip. How wonderful. Hopefully the weather will be a bit cooler. I spoke to my friend in Paris this morning and he said that it was 95 degrees…which is OK for Palm Springs but not OK for Paris!

  4. I make many lists: packing lists, outfit lists, lists of things I don't even own. Then I pack the adaptors and black clothing, always an extra pair of shoes. Bon voyage!

  5. hi lpc,

    have a great trip. it sounds fascinating. if the computer doesn't work you know your camera will so take lots of pics.

    i'm a very deliberate packer. i love to make sketches of outfits i'll wear and then pack very lightly. i always do and always have enough.


    ps ~ thank you for the birthday wish and your comment about my sweet, specific voice made my day!

  6. Oh you always write so beautifully Lisa! And very wisely too. I hope your packing is going well and that you are nearly finished. One thing I do is put everything out and then try to cull it all by half! Have a wonderful time – it sounds amazing. x

  7. My packing is all about charts and graphs. I make a day schedule and write down the outfits. Then I have a pack list on my computer I print out with all the things that go on every trip. I hate packing and now that I have kids it's even worse! Sounds like a fabulous trip!

  8. My packing always involves some battling between fantasy and reality — as such, I like several days for the process, so that I can gradually acknowledge and then relinquish the fantasy which involves some rather impractical garment or other. And also leave time for accommodating one or two of those fantasies — as, in my last trip, a floaty long orange dress which was first in, then out, then back in again. So looking, yes, but also imagining a narrative or two, and indulging in an argument with myself.
    Have a lovely time wherever you'll be plugging that adaptor in!

  9. TPP – Well that's it. Clearly you need timpani to accompany your packing. All would be much, much better.

    Belle – It calms me too. Let me be clear, it's only accidental that I'm going to Northern Europe with this frequency:).

    Duchesse – I think of you then as a spreadsheet thinker. An extra pair of shoes, huh? Done. Thanks.

    Janet – Sketches, wow, that brings new meaning to the word "visual." And, you're welcome. More than welcome.

  10. Semi – Thank you so much for your kind words. I am nearly finished but I appear to have lost my YOGA pants!@! Will have to travel in jeans.

    The Mrs. – Wow. You are the spreadsheet goddess! Maybe you hate it because you have such high standards.

    Mater – Ah, the packing novelist. The stories. The imagination always engaged.

  11. I enjoy packing in summer because much more fits into the suitcase and I get the chance to choose the creme de la creme of my drawers. Often it is a big "Hello" when new – old- friends, mainly in cotton and linen are revealed again.
    If only I could let go all the clothes left in the drawers, since I obviously don't need/want/like them.

    on seeing/thinking of things: the menus with photos+ description of the dish the worst for me. (mostly in asian restaurants). I can#t help it, I have to imagine the scent and taste of every dish, it takes me much longer and a actually need to concentrate on the dish to "get it". This never happens while looking at a written-only menu.

    Do you travel hard-case? Spinner? Luxury-trunks? Portable Wardrobe?

    PS: It is nice having you still around :)

  12. I like your identification of packing archetypes, Lisa. I'm a combination of packing novellist, like Materfamilias, and spreadsheet packer, like Duchesse. I enjoy the packing process a lot more when I remember to engage more of the packing novellist in me, though I can't imagine ditching the lists entirely.

    Have a great trip!

  13. How is it you can turn packing into a beautifully written philosophical exercise? You are amazing.

    Curiously when I was young and traveling a lot it somehow seemed to be relatively easy. Now, traveling much less, it seems a huge burden — what to take, what to leave behind, what if. . .? (That sort of explains my closets as well, unfortunately.)

    And yes, Duchesse, I am a list fiend. Just love 'em.


  14. I hate packing. Packing involves thinking ahead to every eventuality and I prefer to wake up, look out my window and decide what to wear. I've got several trips coming up too … perhaps I could convince you to come pack for me? I'm sure I'd look much nicer than I usually do!

  15. I am not sure where you are travelling to…but I am certain that you will be dressed for any occasion.

  16. I always take too much. I have given up trying to be a light packer. Like you said, knowing oneself. I like to be prepared.
    "In midlife you've got youth and age to either side, and you want to understand each so as to sit fully in your self;" so beautifully put and so very true.
    Have a safe and wonderful trip!

  17. I like this post. Sometimes I forget that people of different ages approach things differently. It's based on acquired wisdom and physical capability. I agree that it's important to tailor your strategy to whatever works best for YOU. We're all different. We shouldn't feel the need to prove anything to anyone but ourselves… But it's hard with expectations.

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