It’s a familiar warning at airports. “Do not leave luggage unattended. Unattended luggage will be removed by security.”

It’s a lot like the situation when we run away from ourselves, by traveling to a distant place, perhaps, from a place where we might have felt shattered and in pieces. We think moving away from that place of heartbreak to a new place might bring us together and make us whole again.

But old luggage follows us around. Heartache, hurt, a tattered sense of self might be forgotten in the novelty of a new space. New experiences might distract us. We might summon the inner hedonist and for a while, discover exotic and exciting sensations that mask the scars from a previous place.

We can’t really run away. The old luggage is always with us. If we do not deal with it, face it now, it will be left unattended, and the protectionism of the self will sooner or later bring it up in the most unexpected circumstances.

Sometimes the trigger is as simple as a whiff of perfume, or a scent of a meal once shared.

Diane Ackerman in her book A Natural History of the Senses writes, “Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.”

It’s better not to leave luggage unattended.

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