What boxes are you living in? If you’re thinking “but I don’t live in any boxes,” swap in “should” for “box”. What shoulds are you living in? Where are you shoulding on yourself in your life? (And stepping into a big, steaming pile of should is way worse than stepping into a big, steaming pile of sh*t — cleaning off dog poop is much easier, believe it or not).
Some boxes I’ve explored the inside of (rather thoroughly, I might add):
-How I should be as a mother, stepmother, wife, daughter, woman
-How I should act to maximize the chances of others liking me (step 1: don’t make anyone uncomfortable)
-Be pretty, beautiful, attractive, magazine “feminine” (i.e., thin, smiling and nodding)
-How my house should look (keep it neat and clean and decluttered and photo-ready at all times)
-What I should (or shouldn’t) eat and when
-How I should exercise (clearly harder and more than I currently do)
-What time I should get up/go to bed and how I should spend the hours in between
-What sort of job I should have and how I should do it
-How I should try to climb the ladder (or not)
-What marriage (and sex and intimacy) should look like
-How I thought others should be and what I thought they should do
…and many others.
I’m getting that trying to live in my boxes is like trying doing a gymnastics routine while holding my breath. I’ll be okay for a short while, and then I’ll start to struggle and eventually pass out mid-routine, pretty much guaranteed an unlovely injury in the process.
Or maybe it’s like trying to change my 3-D world into a 2-D photo and then shoving it all in a box when things are at an “acceptable” moment (I’m at the right weight right now so I’m going to pause everything else and try to hold everything here because this is where I’m supposed to be so keep holding and holding and holding and THIS FUCKING SUCKS AND I’M GOING TO GO JUMP OFF A CLIFF OR CAUSE SOME DAMAGE TO SOMETHING IF I STAY IN THIS BOX BECAUSE I CAN’T BREATHE ANYMORE AND EVERYTHING HURTS FROM STAYING STILL).
We’re not 2-D. We’re not meant to stay still. We’re meant to move, to try, to breathe, to live. This includes both flying, falling, sometimes crashing, and then trying again. Crashing, mistakes, and errors are part of the learning process, an indicator to try something different, not a message to stop trying at all.
So I’m working, practicing, trying again and again to skip the boxes and shoulds. I’m asking myself what life might look like on the outside — and then seeing if I can create it.
I don’t have a perfect blueprint or always know where I’ll go. And sometimes that feels really, really, really scary. Being in the box felt safe, if nothing else.
But being in the box means death, eventually, if you try and live there. There isn’t any air — and we are meant to breathe.
Can you breathe?