As we travel down the road of life we pick up new ideas, thoughts and lives and discard the used, worn-out familiarities. And as we travel, we are also trading in our bags for certain life events we experience. Sometimes we need a carry-on for light issues. Sometimes a backpack will suffice for the necessities. Other times we need full-on suitcases to contain the explosion. And we may even have that suitcase be made out of an indestructible material so no one can get inside, even us, to look at the mess. Or, sometimes, we want to hold on to it because it’s familiar.
However, there comes a day when our bag, whatever kind we choose, becomes intolerably heavy and we have to look inside. Remember our old friend, Panic, from my previous article? Well, here is our friend nudging us again to acknowledge that something needs to change.
We need to open up our bags from time to time to pack and re-pack to allow in new experiences as well as letting go of the old. We have to take that leap of faith knowing that in order to have the life we want, we are going to have to sift through some junk to get there. We need to take that journey to the “Darklands” to talk in rhyme with our chaotic souls, as musician William Reid sings. And that journey takes a lot of courage! It takes a lot of courage to take the responsibility to ask ourselves, “Why am I carrying this? Why am I doing this?” Ultimately we do this because we want to have a sense of purpose in our lives.
Richard Leider and David Shapiro, authors of Repacking Your Bags: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life, define four categories in our lives that we question the most. They are: work, relationships, place/home, and purpose in life. Which one(s) are you struggling with right now? What bag are you about to unpack? Sometimes, asking yourself specific questions can help to clarify where you’re at with a particular situation. These questions are called the “Unpacking Dialogue Questions” that Leider and Shapiro encourage you to ask yourself.
- Can I really expect the situation to be any better somewhere else? Or with someone else? How?
- Is what bothers me about this job or person something I would have only with this job or person?
- What would it take to “unpack my bags” and stay here committed?
- At what point have I thought enough about my situation—at what point is “hanging in there” a mistake?
- If I “repack my bags,” am I willing to experience…
- Temporary criticism?
- Temporary loss of friends, family?
- Temporary loss of income?
- Temporary loss of place?
- Temporary feeling that I’m selfish?
- Temporary feeling that I let go too soon? (pp. 76-77)
These questions can be answered in your Art Therapy Feelings Journal. You can write down your answers as well as draw about them to gain more insight into the work you must do. The questions and answers will be on-going and you will probably find yourself going back from time to time to add or delete.
It says you’re thinking about things seriously; that you’re making your move. You’re heading toward liberation! The next step is to create a bag that reflects the life you want. Going to the party store and picking out a paper bag is one creative way to express yourself. Also, using the “Postcard Activities” found in Leider and Shapiro’s book and collecting them into your new bag will help to round out your thoughts and feelings about the changes you are about to make. This collection of postcards will mirror what it is you are really wanting.
When we take the time to write down and create what we want, the Law of Attraction unfolds and our wishes and dreams come alive. When we change our thoughts, we change our outcome.
Some of examples of “Postcard Activities” are:
- “The One Thing I Really Need”—create an image of the one thing in your home that is really important to you and write about why
- “The One Thing I Really Don’t Need”—create an image of the one thing in your life that you really don’t need and write about why
- “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up”—create an image of yourself doing anything you want in your work life and write down three things you would have to do to make the work a reality
- “Fully Unpacking”—create an image of a person who really knows who you are and write down the different ways this person helps you to “unpack”
Finally, completing the “Repacking Your Bag Checklist” will help sort out if you have what you need for your journey.
- Have I uncovered my Purpose?
- Is my stuff making me happy or is it just weighing me down?
- Am I living in the place I belong or heading in that direction?
- Am I doing the right work?
- Am I having courageous conversations with the people I love? Am I able to be vulnerable?
- Do I have a listening point—a place to renew myself?
- Am I willing to get lost and be courageous? (p. 186)
This is also a time where Counseling and Art Therapy can help you to make sense of what’s true for you and what isn’t. Talking about your courage and chaos while creating your bag and postcards with a professional can help you sort and test out your theories before putting them into practice. This way you can try on your bag, make your revisions, and with self-assuredness head out to the great unknown, the “Darklands.”
- Repacking Your Bags: Lightening Your Load for the Rest of Your Life by: Richard J. Leider and David A. Shapiro (2002)
- “Darklands” by: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Darklands, 1987