What My Husband Taught Me About Unpacking

Brown suitcase with the left corner unzipped and lifted.

I’m on Day One of recovering from jet lag. So far, so good.

One of the first things I did after I got home from Australia — after repeatedly hugging every family member and racing from room to room like a puppy — was to unpack.

This was something I learned from my husband.

When I was younger, I followed the “unpack as necessary” approach. I’d leave my suitcase open on the floor, and take out things as I needed them, or when I felt like putting a few things away. It took a few days to empty the suitcase.

But over the years, I learned that this approach drove my husband nuts. It bugged him to see that open, half-empty suitcase.

So a while back, I decided that I could unpack immediately, out of love for him.

And I quickly realized that this approach was much better. So, although I didn’t feel like unpacking within the first hour of getting home, I did — and it was a huge relief to have that task accomplished. Unpacking isn’t hard, but it feels hard.

Also, what a relief to have everything put away. I reminded myself, yet again, of that Secret of Adulthood: Outer order contributes to inner calm (more, really, than it should).

It was funny, about this trip. I was gone for a week, and although I’ve been away from home for longer stretches, this felt much longer.  Partly, it was the fact that I was so far away; not just traveling around the United States, but on the other side of the world.

But I didn’t anticipate how jarring it would be to cross the international date line. Even though I rationally understand it, of course, there really is something deeply disconcerting about traveling into tomorrow, and then back again into yesterday.

Apparently, it’s not true that people rioted in England in 1750, when the country adopted the Gregorian calendar, to demand that their “eleven days” be restored. But even if they didn’t actually riot, I understand why they might have felt like rioting. It was very weird to see the calendar jerk forward and back, even though I knew that my life was rolling ahead as usual.

So…any tips for jet lag?

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