By Melissa Ballard
One Month Before Going Away
- Try not to think about it. You know it will take you forever–longer than the trip will last–to pack. Even with all that prep, you will take too many pairs of shoes and forget the iPod on which you’ve downloaded the CD, How To Eliminate Panic Attacks.
- Remember this is something you want to do, and will almost certainly enjoy. That the anticipation is always the worst part. Always.
- Tell yourself that anything you forget can be purchased once you get there. Probably. Try not to think about that week you spent without a car at a summer resort where the gourmet grocery store sold seventeen flavors of olive oil, but did not stock peanut butter.
- Meditate daily. Practice positive-self talk. Try not to take yourself so seriously, for God’s sake.
One Week Before Going Away
- Print your packing checklist. Begin to set things out on the spare bed. Try not to focus on the fact that you used to make fun of your mom for doing this.
- Sort your things into piles.
- Clothes: one outfit, with shoes, for each type of event and for all possible weather outcomes; one set of underwear and pajamas for each day, plus extras; shorts, a tee, sports bra, socks, and cross-trainers for exercising, even though you rarely exercise when you are away.
- Toiletries: one bag for tiny bottles of various liquids (you aren’t flying this time, but it’s become a habit); one for non-liquids like Q-tips, nail clippers, vitamins, hair brush, etc.; and a third for things you probably won’t need: a sewing kit, a first aid kit, spare glasses and a small woven purse filled with quarters, just in case you have to do laundry or make copies.
- Miscellaneous: a copy of Bird by Bird and the latest Laura Lippman mystery, a journal, pens and pencils, a water bottle, protein bars, Sudoku and dark chocolate.
- Remind yourself you cannot possibly fit your entire home into your suitcases, no matter how tightly you roll your clothes. Try to be like a normal person who throws some clothes in a single suitcase, tosses her toiletries bag on top, and calls it a day.
- Wake up at 3:34 a.m. four days in a row, your stomach clenched and your heart racing. Try all your relaxation tricks so you can get back to sleep, but finally admit you are up for good, all four times. Exercise, shower and drink your jasmine tea (you have sworn off coffee until after you go away, because it makes you jittery) while doing the newspaper crossword puzzle. Tell yourself this is not a big deal, people go away all the time, and what the hell is wrong with you, anyway? Continue to practice positive self-talk.
Two Days Before Going Away
- Remove most of the clothes you’ve piled up, and add different ones. Remove one pair of shoes and add two more. Review your last minute checklist, which includes, but is not limited to: a small bottle of Ativan, the pills already scored and split; the mouth guard you have nearly shredded in half; your phone and charger; and the crystal necklace that will keep the car from crashing (it also works for planes-so far). Try not to think about the fact that you need both a packing checklist and a last minute checklist.
- Go out to dinner with your husband at the Black River Café to take your mind off your checklists, those towering piles on the spare bed and the fact that you are going away. Try not to eat anything that might upset your stomach, because your stomach is already upset. Decide to have the mussels in coconut milk, curry and ginger anyway, and then a second glass of Malbec. Opt for the chocolate lava cake for dessert, because your stomach is already upset. As you sip your wine, your will husband say, “So, have you finished packing yet?” You will give him the look, and he will say, “Oh, right, never mind.”
The Morning of Going Away
- Put each pile in a Target bag and double-bag the liquids. Just in case. Jam it all in your suitcases. Try to get them zipped.
- Review your leaving the house checklist, the one that includes turning off anything that might lead to flood or fire. Check it twice. Try not to think about the fact that you have a packing checklist, a last minute checklist and a leaving the house checklist.
- As you get in the car, practice deep-breathing and rub your worry stone. Whisper to yourself: Why do you need to carry so much? What are you afraid of?