Friday, April 15, 2011

Pack Your Suitcase Carefully

Yesterday I posted about Siobhan Fallon's book, You Know When the Men Are Gone, and today I want to address one particular passage from the book that has been on my mind.

In Fallon's second short story entitled Camp Liberty, deployed soldier David Moge is worrying about returning to ordinary life after living through a war: And Moge was seized with a terrible though: What if, after all of his longing to get out and get on with his life, in his comfortable middle age he would look back at this time and realize his years in the army were the most vivid, the most startlingly real, of his entire life?(55).

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After reading these lines I set the book down and wondered to myself what, later on, will be the most vivid. the most startlingly real memories and impressions of my life? Of course the context of the passage was dealing with a soldier transformed by his combat experiences, and that is a whole different hornet's nest that my safe, civilian life can't touch. Yet I feel like Fallon is posing a question that is relevant to all readers: What is important, real, and lasting in our chaotic lives? 

Certainly we've all stumbled, or been hurt in a way that has branded our impression of past experiences. But in my life I've had exhilerating, pure moments that rival the hard times, the memory of them being equally vivid, and as startlingly real. I imagine that in old age each of us will carry a suitcase carefully laid with the memories that seared the deepest. So, maybe it is part of our life work to strive for happiness that is rich enough to counter balance the darker times, so that when we eventually thumb through our "suitcase," the stacks of lights and darks will be evenly matched.

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I wouldn't have known what to say to that soldier, other than I'm a staunch believer in "the sun will come out tomorrow."  Whenever I look around and think with dismay, this is it. This is how it's going to be from now on...inevitably it's time for a change. As if admission of our self-doubt and discontent is the necessary precursor to happiness. We will all participate in hard times and witness unthinkable heartaches that are beyond our control. But the good stuff, the happy stuff inside our suitcase, I believe that part is up to us.


  1. This a really good one, Lauren. You've got me thinking. I hope you are feeling better today! The flu is no fun at all!

  2. Thanks Michelle, I'm limping through it:)


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