The Bag

What’s in the bag? What am I carrying with me right now? What can I let go?

Gwen Bell asked this personal question for reflection and this morning, just out of bed, I reflected on it.

It’s apropos because I have been suffering with neck and shoulder tension for a few days now, and it’s buggered up my head. I get these tension headaches periodically — at least I think they are, I’ve never been formally diagnosed — and on Thursday morning, I woke up with a sore neck and shoulder on the right side. It’s always the right side. So I went about my day, feeling kind of tired and off, but that was the second day I’d woken that way so I wasn’t surprised.

After supper, the headache started. It was a bad one. I ignored it for the first little while and then it got worse when we walked out in the snow up to the school to watch them light the giant cedar tree on the corner. With lights, I mean. Not on fire.

Incidentally, it was our first year attending this annual event and instead of raining like stink, it snowed like stink instead, and all was bright and cold and festive-feeling.

We got up the hill to the school and suddenly my headache began making itself known, in that I’m in trouble, I need an ibuprofen right this second sort of way. It was too late to go home and come back in time for the tree lighting so I just held steady. It was one of those headaches where you can’t bend over because the blood goes rushing to your head and then you feel intense pain and also like maybe you are going to throw up.

It took a double dose of ibuprofen and a heating pad on my neck to get me to the point where I could sleep.

I woke up yesterday all groggy from the pain medication and my neck still hurt. I took ibuprofen when I felt the first twinges of headache and it didn’t come back. The neck and shoulder tension is still there, though.

Back to the question! What do I have in my bag? I was noticing yesterday at the mall that the bag I was carrying cross-ways over my heart (symbolic?) was pulling at my right shoulder. Yet, across my other shoulder it is clunky and interrupts my walking.

It contained:

– my wallet
– a powder compact in case I decide to wear powder. It hasn’t happened this year, but it could. At any moment.
– a shirt that I was returning to a store at the mall
– a ‘first aid kit’ with drugs, bandages, antiseptic spray
– a shopping bag, for when we got our groceries
– several pens (but no paper)
– lip gloss
– tissues
– cell phone
– candy
– an apple

My bag is a ‘ready for anything’ mobile unit. Almost everything in it is just in case.

In light of my recent realization about the rope — no, not a thread, much weightier than that — of anxiety that connects me to both my father and my son, I am hyper-aware of the tendency I have to be prepared. As if being prepared for 90% of what life hurls at you will help you when you turn a corner and run smack into Ms. 10%. Wouldn’t it be better to spend one’s energy learning how to deal with adversity, learning how to be healthy and happy despite the 10%, and then you would be prepared for the entire 100. Without having to carry around way too much stuff in a bag.

I don’t remember what I used to carry in my bag before I was a parent. I think it was more like notebook, pen, music player, wallet. Having kids made my preparation gene go into overdrive. I think this happens to a lot of people, judging by the massive diaper bag market. There are systems man.

I digress.

Is my bag — and baggage, ho ho — causing my shoulder and my neck and thus my head to ache? I don’t know. It’s as likely as anything else. I don’t hold my body properly all the time; sitting at this laptop, for example. My position in the car when I drive. My tendency to sit down facing one direction and then turn my head to look at things over *there* instead of turning my whole body. It could also be: hormones, the weather changing, that my children (weights: 45 and 37 lbs, respectively) like to dangle off me like monkeys.

The purse part is kind of irrelevant. The part about being prepared helps to foster the illusion that as long as I have everything with me, nothing bad can happen. Maybe it’s time to just let shit happen and deal with it when it does. Seriously, by now, I have the tools I need, right?

Dear Universe: Please don’t answer that.

Can I possibly practice being less ready for anything? Perhaps, yes.

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5 Responses to The Bag

  1. Marcy says:

    I have similar over-prepared tendencies and large, heavy purse-itis, and have really noticed its impact on my neck and shoulder. I end up with serious, intese pain on the regular from it (aggravated by the fact that I have a chronic inflamatory pain disease, but still).

    I find that wearing a backpack instead (as dorky as it is) really helps if I’m going to be walking around or standing a lot, I guess since the weight is carried evenly across your body rather than pulling on one side. Plus, backpacks usually have more room than purses…so functional!

  2. shasta says:

    I am similarly overprepared. I carried matches in my purse for the longest time just in case (for what I don’t know, but apparently it involved a lack of things that generate heat).

    • shasta says:

      Scratch that – matches are still there. If you’re a smoker and/or contestant on Survivor, I’m your girl.

  3. Megan says:

    I have the same problem with my bag. I have everything I could possibly need with me at all times, and I never use even half of it. But I might!

    Your headache sounds brutal. I’ve been getting a lot of bad headaches lately, and without my glorious Excedrin, I’m screwed. So I (literally) feel your pain.

    Also, it’s been a while since I’ve told you how much I admire your writing. You even write eloquently about what’s in your purse, for fuck’s sake. Well done

  4. As my kids get older, my bag gets lighter. Thank God because that thing used to be one weighty mo-fo.

    Hope your headache clears up soon.