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“Freedom’s Just Another Word — for Nothing Left to Lose.”

“It should not be denied… that being footloose has always exhilarated us.  It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led West.” 

Wallace Stegner, The American West as Living Space

“What if I walked away, right now, into these open spaces ahead?”

I wasn’t sure if every 19-year-old entertained such thoughts, but as I continued walking in the midday heat of a Southern California summer, I could see the journey clearly.  I could see myself:  A tiny figure whose outline was distorted by the heat rising from underneath the thin-soled Converse shoes, walking slowly but with certainty, fearless in the way of someone who had nothing to lose.

I had lost enough that year to not fear the possible pain of the unknown.  I had lost enough to have nothing holding me in place.  My college applications had been sent off late and only to a handful of unknown institutions with rolling admissions.  Considering it was the end of August, I had assumed I had failed to get in.

Two marriage proposals had happened that summer, by two different men, neither of whom even pretended to understand me much.  A month before, I had lost all of my cash, my car and my place of stay; and the absurdity of my pre-college summer was finished off — with a death.

As a matter of fact, it was the dead that was still keeping me in place.

She had died untimely, from a heart attack-ed.  I was called out of my Anatomy Lab to receive the message.  It was just a note, written on a pink slip that rarely meant good news.  The couple of times that I had witnessed it being delivered into my classmates’ hands, they wouldn’t return for the rest of the day.  Sometimes, they would be gone for weeks; and when they came back, I noticed the difference in their faces.  It looked either like gravity — or weightlessness.  I was about to find out which.

My messenger — an unknowing work-study student from the counselors’ office — ran out on me before I could ask him for any details.

“I have a note,” I told the receptionist in the counselors’ office, while rummaging in my schoolbag for my glasses.

“I know.  They are still on hold,” she answered.

The supervisor of the office loomed in the background, by the copy machine.  I saw his face, however blurry, and knew if I could see him any clearer, he would tell me of his sympathy.  My hands continued shaking, as they searched the bottom of my bag for an item I insisted on needing before picking up the phone.

The next few days had passed in a slow-mo waltz of minutes.  There would be phone calls and somber cards; a weeping husband on a flowery couch; a line of uninvited guests who would never be around whenever I was attacked by a slew of forms and interviews from funeral parlors.

“Whatever you need,” they promised to the weeping husband, as they too began to weep.

Nothing had prepared me for the questions that happened that week, from the people on the other end of the phone:

She was a donor, they said; and could they have my signature — to take her eyes?

Make a list of all the things, they told me:  things to be placed inside her coffin.  Did I know which she had treasured the most?

Choose the clothes she would be most comfortable in, they insisted:  Shouldn’t she be comfortable, wherever she was going?

And was I sure she wouldn’t prefer cremation instead?  (‘Cause that wouldn’t cost us as much, they would mention under their breath:  After all, they weren’t completely heartless.)

The weeping husband continued to assume I was strong enough to take his place.  No one had asked me if I was ready or willing, or knowledgeable of her last wishes.  Perhaps, I had promised more competence than the bulb-nosed man on the flowery couch, who nodded and moaned, accepted troughs of food from the still uninvited neighbors, with their solemn faces and anecdotes about the dead.

“Whatever you need,” they mumbled over his shoulder as they hugged and strained their own faces for emotions.

On the morning of the funeral, I remembered shivering.  They had wanted us to start early:  The first burial of the day.  And the morning would be so cold, and dewy.  The husband continued to weep in the front row of gray plastic chairs, while I accepted envelopes and hugs from people I hadn’t known.

Thank you for coming.

Thank you for coming.

Thank you.  It means so much.

The following week, I had promised to come back and clean out her closet.  The task of deciphering the bus schedules and routes seemed absurd and painfully sad.  I would study the indifferent faces of the drivers as they spoke gibberish about my transfers, and vouchers, and student passes.

I would get off on the last stop and study the desolate grounds and the open spaces ahead.

“What if I walked away, right now,” I thought, “into the open spaces?”

What if I followed the trajectory of black telephone lines or began chasing tumbleweeds:

Where would I end up?  And would I end up free?

And would that freedom feel weightless, eventually returning my joy; my forgiveness?

“Set Me Free, Why Don’t Cha, Babe? Get Outta My Life, Why Don’t Cha, Babe?!”

“First of all:

I am tired.  I am true of heart!

And also:

You are tired.  You are true of heart!” — 

Dave Eggers,  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Sometimes, forgiveness — means being silent.

You are still thinking of that person who has mishandled you, who has mistreated, misunderstood it all — someone who has committed a sad misstep.  But, of course, you think of him!  How could he?!

But time happens.  It keeps on happening.  That just can’t be helped.

And as the time happens, his misstep seems sadder and sadder.  But it’s rarely tragic, really — if you look at it hard enough.  It may be chaotic, self-serving, unfair.  Foolish and hideous.  Confusing.  Unkind.

But in the end, it’s just sadder.  Especially if you commit yourself — to forgiveness.

For a while, his face floats above your head like a helium filled balloon, tied to the shoulder strap of your luggage.  And you lug it around:  Because these — are your “things”, you see.  And you feel like you’ve gotta keep holding onto them.  You’ve gotta keep holding on!  Because what would you be — if it weren’t for your “things”?

So, the balloon keeps following you, floating above — a strangely pretty thing:  The head of a decapitated ghost.  If you look at it closely enough — it’s quite beautiful, actually, in that post-fuck-up sort of a way.  You can still see the beloved’s face.  You remember the cause of your love.  But there is also a tiredness there that can be confused for peace.  And there are consequences that may result in grace, eventually — when the time allows.

You just gotta commit yourself to time.

You just gotta commit yourself — to forgiveness.

But you aren’t ready yet.  Or so you say.  So you keep lugging the luggage around, earning calluses on your shoulders:

“These are my ‘things’, you see!”

“Oh, yes!  How could he?!” others respond.

At first, you are selective with the audience to your story.  Perhaps, you’ll tell it to your shrink, or to your folks.  When you do, there will be grief written on their faces.

Okay, maybe the shrink will remain stoic:  She’s got too many of you’s — and many more are worse off than you.  But your folks:  They might humor you.  They’ll feel badly.  They’ll behold.  They’ll even claim to pray, on your behalf.  (You’re too busy to pray for yourself, with all that condemnation being flaunted at the balloon-face.  But don’t worry:  Your gods will forgive you for forsaking them (and for forsaking your better self), until you’re ready to commit yourself — to forgiveness.)

“How could he?!” your folks will say.

And it’ll feel good, for a while:  all this attention to your story.  To your “things”.  So, you’ll start telling the story to your friends.

They are good people — your friends, aren’t they?  They will leap to conclusions and advice.  They’ll take your side, if their definition of friendship matches yours.  But some will judge.  Others will hold back.  And some will even want to share their story, because to them, that’s how empathy works:  It gives space — to their sadder, sadder stories that aren’t really tragic.  Except, when you (or they) are in the midst of the story, tragedy is a lot more precise.  It matches the weight of the “things”.

You may get annoyed at your friends.  You may disagree.  You may even demand more kindness.  Or more time.

Because time — keeps on happening.  That just can’t be helped.

And you wish, it would move at a slower pace, sometimes.

And, okay, you just may get a little bit more of it, if you keep retelling your story to enough new people.

“How could he?!” they’ll say.

And you’ll get off, for a bit.  (Feel better yet?)

One day, though, you’ll catch yourself in the midst of sadness.  You’ll be showing your “things”, the way you always do, waiting for the “How could he?!” to follow.  Your habitual anticipation of likely reactions will suddenly feel tired.  You — will be tired.

A thought will flash:

“I don’t know if I wanna keep lugging this ‘thing’ around, anymore…”

His face — still floating, hanging above your head like something that used to belong to your favorite ghost — will seem slightly deflated.  Sadder — NOT tragic.

Still, you will keep lugging.  For a bit more, you will.  You still need more time.

You’ve started this thing, and the ripple waves of gossip and misinterpreted empathies will keep coming in, for a bit longer.  But they won’t bring you any more catharsis.  And as you keep retelling the story (which will now sound a lot more fragmented), you’ll notice your people lingering:

“Isn’t it time yet?” they’ll ask you with the corners of their saddened eyes.

They are tired.  You — are tired.

So, you’ll feel stagnant; stuck with that silly, slowly deflating balloon shadowing you and your “things”:  RIDICULOUS.

And time — will keep on happening.  That just can’t be helped.

And the relief will linger on the other side.

But then, again:  What would you be — if it weren’t for your “things”?

Whether because you’re finally tired of retelling your story or because every one of your people has heard it — you stop.  You stop retelling, and you stop asking for more time.

You let go.

You unleash the face of your favorite ghost:  You let go.

YOU LET GO.

And you get a hold — of silence.

“It’s Alright, It’s Alright! ALL-RIGHT! She Moves — In Mysterious Ways!”

En route to Lompoc, to jump out of a plane.  Bono is screaming about love.

And when is he not, that preacher of the better part of us?

Here comes an unexpected detour.  I catch myself thinking:  I cannot wait to fly!

But instead, I make Bono hush down for a bit and watch my co-pilot navigate through the unknown neighborhood with patience I am known to not possess. I’m intense, even in my mightiest lightness.  We follow the neon orange signs that appear dusty and somehow tired.  It’s a beach town, and other drivers aren’t in a hurry at all.  Around the bend, however, I see the pillars of the 101:  The cars are zooming by.  Freedom!

“I WANNA RUN!” Bono is back to screaming, screeching occasionally, to get the message across.

The last text I send, before turning off my cell phone, is to my BFF — my most kindred heart in this world that has put up with my messy head and impatient soul for over a decade, without much objection.  She is my In Case of Emergency; has been, since college.  Sure, there have been partners before, who would take over that burden, on an adventure or two.  But once they go — the job returns to my most kindred heart.

“In the name of love!

One more!  In the name of love!”

Ah:  St. Bono!

Interestingly, my BFF and I have rarely spoken about our heartbreaks to each other.  Perhaps, it’s because we both know that even when a heart breaks — it gets better, with choice.  And our choice has always been for the better parts of us.

Bono puts in his two cents:  

“You’re dangerous, 

‘Cause you’re honest.”

On this part of the 101, the traffic moves.  It’s a two-lane construction and we all seem to be quite certain about where we’re going.

For miles and miles, I see California — and it is glorious!

Here she is, stretching in front of me like a reclining redhead, so sure of her witchcraft; with her floor-length hair spilling around her nudity like a shadow.  In the fields and farmlands, I am exploring her long limbs:  This girl’s got some freckles on her!

When passing through her mountains, I enter her mysterious parts:  the curvatures of her hips, and the dimples on her lower back, the hills of her sumptuous behind.  In between two green peaks, I am aware of my privilege:  My glorious girl has just let me inside.  She has surrendered.  I dive.  I hold my breath a little, pop my ears.  I come out on top.

Bono chimes in:

“It’s alright, it’s alright!  ALL-RIGHT!  

She moves in mysterious ways.”

We take the onramp:  1 North.  I’m in the vineyards now:  In her hair follicles, behind her earlobes, heading toward the magnificent head of the State.  I do love it up there, but I’ve gotta make a stop (somewhere along her clavicle, perhaps):  So that I can jump out of the plane — and into the next chapter of me.

And I am thinking:  I cannot wait already!  And I feel so light!

We pull off onto the side of the road:  Here.  Finally!  But if it weren’t for the single-engine aircraft that looks like it’s been constructed from scrap metal found nearby, I wouldn’t know it.

We check in with a girl next door — at the front desk.  She’s skydived 87 times by now!  Badass.

In a company of a giggling young lovebirds, we watch two safety videos.

Sign off our lives.

On the other side of the building where we’ve been sent to wait for our instructors, I see a handful of young boys cracking themselves up at the footage of other people’s faces blown into the hideous grins by the g-force.  As these impatient souls fall out of the plane, one by one, the video plays music.  But I can lipread:

“HOLY SHIIIT!”

“OH MY GOD!”

And:

“FU-AHH-UCK!”

I laugh.  I feel so light, so fearless!

Can’t I just live like this forever and ever, in a perpetual state of expecting my next flight?!

On the other side of the divider, two other badasses are crawling all over the carpeted floor, putting together parachutes.  And I see her — IMMEDIATELY:

She is exactly my height, small and equally as brown; with an intense face, that also resembles mine, even in the moments of my mightiest lightness.  Besides a sports bra and a pair of boy shorts, she is wearing a pair of giant headphones. She’s in her head.  After all:  She’s got human lives in those brown, strong hands of hers.

“Yo, Eric!” she screams out and lifts up one of the headphone muffs.  “Fuck the apple!  Get me a Red Bull, yeah?”

And then, she’s back to crawling all over the carpeted floor:  Badass!  She untangles the lines, gathers the off-white nylon into her arms and dives.  The cloud catches her small, brown body and it deflates, slowly.

“Vera?  Um.  VIE-RRA?!”

Another brown girl has been calling me over:  It’s time for the gear.  She is a sweetheart, but her hands know exactly what to do:  Badass!  She insists on talking to me the entire time, but about life and something so light and so fearless.  The harness is heavy and I feel grateful for that:  It weighs me down, or I would fly off, from all this lightness and love.

And suddenly, I’m thinking:  I’m not fear-less.  I’m:  Fear-none!

I hear the rickety, single-engine aircraft land.  Soon enough, the skydivers start coming down, and they rush through our waiting zone with forever changed faces.

“How was it?” I ask a young boy with a headful of crazy curls.

“OH, SHIT!  AMAZING, MAN!”

He’s screaming at me, with an Aussie accent:  I’m the first civilian soul to meet him on the ground, and I bet if I weren’t being strapped in right then, he would kiss me, open-mouthed, on the lips:  So light!  So fear-none!

The instructors arrive last:  They are in red t-shirts and shorts, as if they’ve just come out to play some beach volleyball.  But they’re wearing the backpack-looking things on their shoulders, while carrying the white bubbles of chutes in their arms.  Badasses!

One of the instructors immediately chips off and goes to grab a bite of pizza.  He devours two bites.

“Um.  Vie-rra?”

I look up:  The badass to take me flying is heading toward us, with an already extended arm for a handshake, even though he’s uncertain which of the impatient souls on standby I must be.

I inhale.  Here I go:

Not fearless — but fear-none!

(To Be Continued.)

“Blame It On: A Simple Twist of Fate.”

She sat on her futon, bare-breasted, with her strong brown legs stretched out before my face; and they clasped the edge of the antique coffee table with her kitty-cat paws — each nail perfectly polished with the color of the Dead Sea; and she read to me, something about angels.

Where the fuck did she come from?  

I knew the details, of course; the original coordinates.  Something about a disheveled family.  Occasionally, she, no longer impressed with herself, would mention the routes she’d taken — “Been there,” — the detours dictated by the whims of her heart.

She would learn to never follow the lead of a man — only of her dreams.

“At least, those — are worth the heartbreak.”

But even with all those words in between us — the words which she did not take seriously because she was no longer impressed, with herself — I could NOT have known the many distances she had gone, in order to arrive.

But where the fuck did she come from?

Never before had I seen a girl who could sit in her brown skin so calmly, wearing nothing but shivers.

Which would make me get up, close the window, fetch her a blanket.

“I’m fine,” she’d wave it off, of course.  For she had gone some very long distances, and she would learn to never follow the lead of a man.

And it surprised me that she could be so mellow while stripped, wearing nothing but shivers over her skin.  Most women would freak out with sudden timidness and cover-up their glorious breasts with silly arm gestures.  The way their breasts would spill out over their forearms or in between their fingers would still be enough to make me want to conquer my fears, in their name:  To make me want to be a man.

She, however, was beyond getting in her own way.  For she gone some long distances — in order to arrive.

“It’s bad enough,” she’d joke, “that I’ve got this brain of mine!”

She was always in on the joke of herself.

But really:  What the fuck did she come from?  And how in the world — was she happening?!

With an erect spine of a disciplined dancer, she had been sitting up, watching me get dressed.  I wondered:  Would she write me into her poetry in the morning?  Would I make it into her stories?  (Dear god!  I always get in my own way!)

On top of her knees that were fuzzy with shivers, she was holding an open book of poetry.  I had just picked it up for her, from a bookstore where she was always finding something to read, about angels.  By now, we had shared many books — and plenty of poetry.  And we would share even more had it not been for one annoying habit of hers:  of always reading the very first and the very last sentence before committing to the rest of the text.

“It’s the perfect test — of everything,” she’d always joke.  So impatient — but always in on the joke of herself.

I’d get irritated, at first:  “I don’t ever want to know the ending!”

But she would already be ahead of me, with her charm and that angelic face.

“Where the fuck did you come from?” I said to her last night, while she sat comfortably in her brown skin.  I wanted to think of myself as poignant, or ironic at least.  I reached out to move her hair out of the way.

Her hair!  I had never seen it this long before.  She would normally lose her patience and chop it off, coming back over the threshold of my house while looking like some French actress, with an angelic face.  And it would fling above me, and it would sway, in passion — that glorious wing of hers! — and I would forget to say a prayer to my memory:

Please, please, please hold on to her!  Just this way:  Riding above me, long beyond my comprehension.  Taunting with her riddles and poetry, never meant to be captured.  Always:  Above!

But instead, I would trip out:  There would be so much of her!  So much to remember.  And I would try to say something poignant, or ironic, at least.  And I would ruin it, of course.  (By god!  I always get in the my own way!)

Her hair!  Last night, it was heavy with sweat and the grime of the city.  I could smell other beings on her, because they would always want a piece of that compassion.  They were entitled to it — that wretched lot of conflicted parasites! — and they would pull her down, down, down with them, by that very same mane of hers.

To keep it out of her face, she would yank her hair back into a bun — with an erect spine and a confident hand of a disciplined dancer.  Or, she would flip it, side to side, as she did last night; and it would stream down — that glorious wing of hers! — and in its waves and long centimeters, I could see the distances she had gone.

But:  Where?!  Where the fuck did she come from?  And how in the world was she happening — to me?!

I didn’t know.  I couldn’t have known the distances she had gone — in order to arrive.  I only knew the privilege of her time and poetry; and instead of getting in the way of myself, this time around, I would let her read to me, about angels.

“and she says

when I defame her 

dream:

you are trying to 

pull me down 

by the wings.”

I shall not do that, not this time, with trying so hard to be poignant, or ironic, at least; with trying so hard — to matter.

Instead, I’ll let her soar above.

Always:

Above!

“She’s So… (Insert Guitar) HEA-VAAAAAAAAY!”

Don’t dwell on the past.

In so many words, my comrades have been telling me that, for ages.

They wait for me at the agreed-upon intersections in San Francisco, at New York delis, or at coffee shops — when in LA-LA.  Some hear me speeding by, in search of parking, while simultaneously texting them:  “b there in a min.”  They watch me march into a joint, with my hair pulled back.  (Unless traveling long distances up the coast, with all the windows rolled down, I keep that mane tamed at all costs.)  I walk into my rendezvous, smiling at the clerks and saying hello to strangers; then, I scan the room for my beloveds.

I see them and immediately move in for a hug:

“It’s been so long.  So happy to see you.  Ah.”

I wrap myself with their bodies: I am not big on personal spaces between beloveds.

And when that’s all done, I start dumping my loads onto the nearby chairs, peeling off my purses and sweaters.  I’m the type of a broad who carries a first-aid kit at the bottom of her endless bag.  A nail file.  A pair of scissors.  A tampon (always!).  A dozen hairpins.  And a sewing kit:  Never know when you may need one.  And you bet your sweet ass, I have a notebook somewhere in there, as well.  I just have to look for it.

“Well, maybe I left it in the car.”

I don’t even own one of those dainty purses I see other girls carry on their forearms into clubs.  Those things always make me wonder about the gap between the purpose they’re meant to represent and their actual functionality.  It’s a metaphor gone awry.  A promise meant to be disappointing.

But then again, the lesser the load — the lighter the female, right?

Perhaps.  But I doubt it.

In my defense, with time — with age — I’ve gotten significantly lighter, it seems.  It wasn’t a determined decision to drop the endless self-flagellation ceremonies of my 20s.  Instead, they just sort of slipped out of my daily routines; giving room to more decisiveness or to very tired surrender.  Having realized I’m merely an impossible debater to defeat, I stay out of arguments — with myself.

And so, I’ve gotten significantly lighter.  And so have my baggages.

I flop into the chair, across from the face I have now loved for ages, and I let down my mane:

“Ah.  Can I get you something to drink?”

It’s a habit that just won’t go away:

I examine the needs of my beloveds before I check up on my own.

But they’re fine.  My people — are always fine.  They are resilient.  Strong and competent, never helpless.  And even if they’re not fine — that’s fine too; because if ever they ask me for help, I never go telling on them.  And neither do I ever mention it again.

“Seriously.  Don’t mention it.  My honor!” I say, as if threatening.

Love comes with no ties attached.

We begin to talk:  A quick game of catching up with the lapsed time.  A survival of our separations.  If it were up to me, I would have all of my beloveds live with me in a commune:  Some Victorian house balancing on a cliff above the ocean, with a menu of attics and basements, and hiding places for their selection.  And at night, we would gather at a giant wooden table in the middle of an orchard, and we would search our oversized bags — and baggages — for nighttime stories and lovely fairytales about surrender.

But my people — are vagabonds and gypsies; and they go off to conquer their dreams, and to defeat their fears, on the way.

After enough is said to make me want to have a drink or to toast, I finally get up from the chair and start making my way to the counter, smiling at the clerk, again.  In a couple of steps though, I look back, flip my mane and say:

“Sure you don’t want anything?”

Equipped with replenishing elixirs and an item in place of bread that we can break together, I come back to the table, rummage through my purse for a napkin and jumpstart the next round of storytelling.  And I guarantee, most of the time, these are stories of broken loves and departed lovers.

But my people are fine, of course.  They are resilient.  Carefully, they process their losses; and they start dreaming of the next adventure.  The next love.  The next story.

“I’ll drink to that,” I say and tip my mane back while chugging down my drink.

When it’s my turn, however, my stories don’t come out with an obvious ending.  Instead, they offer endless lessons and questions.  For years, for decades, I have been known to mourn my lovers.  I flip each story on its head; and as if yet another endless bag of mine, I rummage through it for details and conclusions.

And that’s when my comrades try to put an end to it:

“Don’t dwell on the past,” they say, and they go to the counter for a refill.

I don’t really know what that means:

None of my stories are ever put to rest.  And neither are my loves.

Instead, they bounce around, at the bottom of my endless baggage, waiting to be pulled out the next time I am in the midst of rummaging for words.  Which must be why I retell each tale so many times, committing it to my own memory and to the memory of my beloveds.

So, dwelling on the past:  I don’t really mind that, as long as I don’t dwell in it. And in my defense, I have gotten lighter, with time, and with age.  And so have my baggages.

“I Told You: Leave Your Situations at the Door!”

I don’t want to wait for a change.  For a change, I don’t want to wait for a change — I want to create it.  I want to make it, because I must make it — in life.  Too long!  It has been too long of a wait:  for a change.  

I had been carrying my suffering like a sentimental load inside tattered baggage I must’ve borrowed from the top shelf of my parents’ closet.  When I was initially packing it up, back in the most formative years of my youth, curiously my father looked over my shoulder, handing me my items with one hand and patting the crown of my head with the other:

“You sure you’re gonna need all of this, little sparrow?” he would ask repeatedly, yet still contribute to my baggage, a handful of issues at a time.

I would get hold of his items, twirl them in my hand; sniff, taste, measure:  “Hmm.  Dunno!” I would say.  “Might need it later.”

My youthful impatience, my childish wrath would prevent me from weighing my future load against my strength.  Instead, I would get inventive at digging up some forgotten familial issues from the corners of my motha’s drawers.  And with my father as my shadow, I would wander around the home I was leaving — out of my stubbornness, not my self-esteem — and take a few things off the walls and, with his help, reach for the highest, forgotten shelves of our bookcases.  Instead of testing the baggage with an occasional test run, I kept on stuffing it.

“Might need it later,” I kept thinking, not even knowing that it was way too much pressure to place onto one’s “later”.

On the day of my departure for what I thought would be a better life — a better “later” — I even managed to look under all the carpets and rugs of our familial home, swooping up a few more microscopic particles into the side pockets of my baggage:  Might need those later, as well.

“Oh, and don’t forget this!” motha would shove a few more things into my baggage on my way out.  She would see me off at the threshold of our familial home; and every time I turned in a lapse of courage, she would wave her kitchen towel at me:  A flag of Don’t Ever Surrender!

The journey would turn out to be more epic than even my youthful imagination could think up; and it would be so magnificent at times — better than I thought when I thought of my “later”.  I would never come to regret the steps I had taken back then, in the most formative years of my youth; and I wouldn’t despise the directions I had chosen to follow — mostly out of stubbornness, not necessarily my self-esteem.  Because in the end, it would’ve all been worth it:  My life — my “later” — would be my own creation.  My choice.

Along the way, I would continue to pick up a few more issues for my loaded baggage:  Might need those later.  And it would take the initial thrill of the journey to settle down before I would become aware of the compromised lightness of my step, the increasing calluses and the now chronic backaches.

“Am I really gonna need all this stuff later?” I would wonder for a moment, but then carry on carrying, mostly out of stubbornness — NOT my self-esteem.

And when another youthful thing would pass me with a lighter baggage on her back, secretly I would admire her step; and I would wonder about our difference.  Must be a familial thing, I would conclude, then rummage through my baggage in search of an issue I could blame it on.  For a moment, the blame would soothe the envy, but the weight would not let up.  And I would spend more stretches of my journey in anticipation of the next rest stop.

Yes, I was getting tired.  I needed more stops, more time to get up; more courage to summon that stubbornness I had been confusing for self-esteem.  The load would begin to affect my choices:  I would start looking for shortcuts.  Better yet, I would ask other travelers for their evaluation of the course ahead.

“It’s just that… I have all this baggage,” I would explain, introducing the heavy load on my back as some alter-ego of mine.

I would begin to doubt my choices, to question if my “later” was still worth the pains.  Suddenly, I would find myself wasting time on indecisiveness — a quality that tarnished my self-esteem.

It would be thrilling, though, when for a while I would be accompanied by a love.  He would offer me a helping hand, and although I would accept it reluctantly, I had to notice how much easier it was to travel without baggage.  Quickly, I would get addicted, if not to that same helping hand, but at least to the illusionary promise of it.  But still committed to my baggage, I wouldn’t notice the burden it would be causing to my love.  And when that love would depart, sometimes, I would ask to carry some of his load as well:  Might need it later.

It would take a few more loves — loves that were in love with their own baggage of suffering — before I would wonder:

“Perhaps, it is time — for a change.”

Gradually, at first, I began leaving some issues at my rest stops or pretending to forget about them when they were carried by a love.  And then, a new habit kicked in:  Once twirled in my hands for the last time, an item would be disposed.  Because rarely did my baggage prove itself worthy of my “later”.

And for a change, I began wanting to change.  Not waiting for it:  Not rummaging in my baggage for promises of closures or resolutions.  Instead, I’ve gotten into a new habit of letting go — for the sake of change.

So, enough now!  It’s time to let go, time to unload.  It’s time — to change, for a change.