The grandkids were over Tuesday and Jodi had to work. They were watching movies. I was meandering around the inside of the boat itching for something to take my mind off my job (not career) search and the fact that I have a number of gig jobs right now that are all in a state of unfinishedness simply due to the fact that weather has to cooperate to complete them.
Jodi had a couple of library books and a movie on her little cubby at the head of the v-berth. The movie was Captain Fantastic. We haven’t watched it yet. Looks like it will be good. No spoilers please. The two books were Yogalosophy and No Baggage by Clara Bensen. I thumbed through the yoga book, but there was movie star name dropping, so I could only conclude that yoga was not the real goal of the book and put it back down.
The cover of No Baggage touts, “A minimalist tale of love & wandering.” The synopsis on the back begins, “Newly recovered from a quarter-life meltdown . . .” I wasn’t sure what to make of this. Did I want to read it? Was this, and please excuse my harsh generalization as, right or wrong, it was the thought that went through my head, another millennial whining about how the promise of life was not delivered to them? I read everything on the back cover, on the inside jacket, and did some random flipping through the pages. I probably needed to read it, I surmised, if for no other purpose than to begin to rid myself of the generalization that popped into my head when I read the back cover. I’ll probably receive a whole heap of crap about that stated thought. But, not everything that runs naked through my head is butterflies and rainbows.
“One dress, Three weeks, Eight countries–Zero baggage”
Sounds like an adventure to me. I opened the book and began reading.
I finished the book in several hours. And that was with constant interruptions from the kiddos. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I did thoroughly enjoy the book.
Clara describes traveling around Europe with a newly met “friend”, Jeff. One outfit apiece and a few simple belongings, they essentially leave their travels to chance. Overnight stays are mostly with complete strangers arranged through couchsurfing.com. Even with their whimsical method of planning, the worry about schedules along with personal emotions and expectations causes a little stress in their new and experimental relationship.
The book wasn’t just about her traveling adventure. It was about their experiment with a no baggage relationship as well as about her life. “No baggage” is a wonderful metaphor for how life should be lived and experienced, regardless of the story or the person who wrote it.
Her meltdown was severe anxiety and I never felt like she was whining about it, rather trying to get a handle on why it debilitated her. I’ve experienced it, so I can empathize. It has never brought me to a complete halt in my life, but there have been times where anxiety simply overwhelmed me. I was somehow able to shove it back down into my gut and keep going. Through all that, I can understand how when we desire and expect certainty in our lives, uncertainty, real uncertainty, can bring a sense of engulfing fear and worry.
If you’ve never experienced severe, and I do mean severe, anxiety then I suppose you wouldn’t understand. Just imagine a state of shear panic and terror. Like if a blood drenched wraith appeared out of the ether and screeched only a screech that could come from another world before heading straight for you. OR envision falling from an infinite height, yet still being able to see the ground that is inevitably the end of the fall. Yeah, there you go, that’s the feeling. Dreams of falling used to wake me up at night.
She quotes a line from Life of Pi when the main character, a young boy, thinks about his odds of surviving being lost at sea in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger:
You might think I lost all hope at that point. I did. And as a result I perked up and felt much better.
No Baggage is ultimately about Clara’s adventure through and acceptance of uncertainty. And in the end, she discovers that
Traveling with next to nothing had gone from a frightening leap of faith to a casual afterthought.
If I’m not mistaken, there have been more a few enlightened individuals in the past that have said that exact thing.
Give up everything in this world and, through faith, you will find that you are taken care of.
It is a difficult thing to do: let go of our perceived control and be a leaf in a stream.