Wednesday, June 10, 2015

PTPD (Post Traumatic Packing Disorder)

In a few months my husband and I will be moving overseas to work with TCKs and we are so excited, but we will only be taking a few suitcases each and as I look around my house I see all the things we will either put into storage, sell, or try and fit into some zippered up bags.

The last time we moved I literally hid from the packing process, and it wasn't even me who had to pack it up. Movers and boxes were coming and I ran away to camp, came home and sat outside with a muffin. Then I closed myself in a room trying to avoid the sound of packing tape and smell of cardboard. I can tell you that my husband was not impressed to say the least.

I have talked a little bit before about the loss we sustain as TCKs in our cultural adjustments but let me focus in on the idea of moving.
I'm the only one with red hair, in case you didn't recognize me
In this picture I am in fifth grade. By this time (about eleven years old) I have moved seven or eight times, I have said goodbye to four different best friends from four different places, and it will be just the beginning because this picture was taken in my first year of boarding school. Which means that from that year until graduation I will pack up my things at the end of every year and head to some form of "home" and then head back to another form of "home" again. Packing, packing, packing. It means a lot of leaving.

This move will bring me to a wonderful total of 26 moves in 26 years. Some years I lived more out of suitcases than others, but the point is this: I know how to move, but the baggage (pun intended) that moving brings with it is loss after loss after loss. Each one brings its own goodbyes and tacks on the new goodbyes I will carry on with me. It is no coincidence that the background of this blog is suitcases. Wanderers carry with them their belongings and their memories and their losses. They carry their hopes and friendships that they may have left behind. I carry that opportunity to dance ballet that I left in Pennsylvania, the loss of two friends who had lockers adjacent to me for years that I do not know if I will run into ever again, the closeness to extended family that I can't sustain from so far away no matter how much I wish to.

It isn't just about leaving those great shoes you love that don't fit in your bag (at least not without breaking the zipper), but it brings up all those other things you have left behind that will never be the same. I am going to call it Post Traumatic Packing Disorder (PTPD), that sinking pit in your stomach when you have to pull the luggage out of your closet, that shrinking back when you hear packing tape unroll, that anxiety that rises up when you look at the boxes and then to all your books.

So let's remember that while going may be exciting, leaving can be excruciating. PTPD means proceed with care and mercy. Packing packs with it all those other things you have left behind. Take the time to say good good-byes and to leave in a healthy way. And remember me as I trudge forward thinking about the loss and packing I will be trying to survive in a few months.

How do you feel when you pack?


  1. As you go through the daunting experience of packing, I look ahead to the same thing on a smaller scale. Even though we are only packing a few suitcases this time, the loss of the friendships we have made here will affect us as it will be a repeat of what we went through only a year ago. I am not looking forward to it. I will be praying for both of you. Love you tons.

    1. Thanks Mom. We are feeling the same way after leaving Cairo, then Monterey after a year, and then of course now Lynchburg after just a year. It does all build up. We'll be praying for you and Dad in your own transition.

  2. Hi Maia,
    Miss you, girl! It's been too long. I've been enjoying/surviving a year in Cairo, and many people ask me if I've known you when I say I grew up in partially Ecuador. I feel your heart in this, and I'd have to agree with your point. Packing is not easy, no matter how many times you have to go through with it. I guess I've survived on the adrenaline of the excitement and tried to push back the pain, knowing these feet find it hard to settle. Since arriving here in August, I have moved eight times because it's been tricky to find a place to stay. So, I entirely resonate with you right now. . . not easy, but I believe the pain is redeemable. Still figuring out why I believe this, but it has something to do with the Feast of Succoth. I've been meaning to write a summary of my experience here. Teaching TCKs is a very healing experience, though, to say the least. I will be praying for you as you step into this new adventure :)
    It was great reading this, so thank you for opening your heart.
    Many blessings!

    1. Anne! Enjoying/surviving is exactly what one does in Cairo. If I live out of a suitcase that long it just stays at bay over time until I get a chance to breathe. Then it all comes crashing down on me. You are absolutely right. The pain is redeemable. One ATCK I follow wrote that we need to learn to honor the loss. I love that idea, what a healing way to deal with loss, by honoring it. It's something that I am learning to live by. I would love to hear about your Egypt experiences and to hear your heart as you have worked with TCKs now. It really is something special.

      Dios te bendiga!