What's in the Box?

If you look up the definition of "box" you find words like container, case, compartment, enclosure. These words lead to a sense of restriction, limitation, and confinement. It's hardly an inspiring place, not somewhere you would want to build your home. And yet, so many of us do just that. We put down roots inside boxes, we fold the ceiling in over ourselves and we hang a sign along the outside with our name inscribed as if to say, "Here I am, composed and easily collected. I'm simple, manageable, organized."

We want to define ourselves, to make lists of the best parts of who we are, and we latch onto those parts with a kind of desperate longing for clarity and consistency. We don't like the idea of confronting contradictions about who we are. The messiness scares us and we mistakenly believe that incongruity equates with error, that if two parts of us contradict one another then one part must inevitably be false. And so we stake our claim on only one side, plant our flag in the ground and devote all efforts to defending that place, no matter if it cuts off our circulation and marks the end of all growth. We dedicate ourselves to self-definition and we perish inside that box, no matter how noble or grand the definition may be. 

We show greatness, not by being at one extreme, but by touching both at once and occupying all the space in between.
— Blaise Pascal

What we overlook is that whatever is real within us, whether kept hidden or in plain sight, never really disappears. What you tuck away so innocently in the closet of your heart will one day find a way to break down the door. There may be no monsters in that closet, no maniacal beasts waiting to feast on your ambitions, but there are always the accumulated tensions of the day, the friction that fills the air when a question goes unasked, when even the simplest feeling gets shoved into a frame that doesn't fit. A dam gets built with the pieces of all that is left unsaid. You get backed up inside and eventually, you break.

Unless we are willing to steer into the complexity of our own character there are parts of us that will drag behind us like paralyzed limbs, forces of anxiety and restlessness that will always hold us captive. We might think that because we define ourselves to be "good" that we are doing right by our selves, but it is limiting all the same. We have to allow our identities to shift and contradict themselves. There is a natural drift in all of us; if we resist that drift and lean on the wheel to go right, right, right - all the time - the only course we'll ever travel is the same, predictable circle.