This sculpture is right outside of my building on the University of Houston campus. It's called, "Sandy in Defined Space" by Richard McDermott Miller.
There are days when I look at Sandy and long for my old life . . . the pre-2007 breakdown life. I remember, midway through the year, walking into Diana’s office in tears. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: I think this authentic-living-open-hearted-bullshit is going to kill me. I don’t think I can do it.
Diana: What’s going on?
Me: I miss my box.
Diana: What box?
Me: I miss being one thing. I need to have one identity. One set of expectations. One definition for success. I need to know where I belong. Brené is a __________________ (professor, mom, writer). I don’t care which one. I just need a box. I need definition. Certainty.
Still me because that's how therapy works: Seriously, doesn’t a box sound great to you? Don’t you want a box??? (To know Diana for more than 30 seconds is to know that she has no box, unless there’s a part mystic, part kick-your-ass life coach, part healer, part earthmother, part not-to-be-known box. Which wouldn’t be a box, right?).
Diana: No. I’m not interested in a box. They sound small, suffocating, tight . . .
Me: Or, they can feel warm, safe, and comforting.
LONG PAUSE with sniffling.
Me: I’m not going back into the box, am I?
Diana: You might, but I don’t think so.
Me: Cry. I really need my box. I feel exposed. I need my protection.
Diana: Sounds like we might be back to the vulnerability issue.
It’s easier to live with certainty. It’s easier to live in a box where everything is defined and prescribed. It’s safer to pick one label and try to be one thing. But, it’s also dangerous. And suffocating. And, for most of us, living in one box is totally inauthentic.
I recently changed the welcome page on my website to reflect my new commitment to emotionally honest and vulnerable living.
It’s not easy to embrace vulnerability – many of my friends are also struggling. Something happens around mid-life (35-45) and the box starts closing in on you. I love this post by my friend and family photographer, Farrah. It’s a great example of how difficult it is to be real when real is always messy and often vulnerable!
What about you? How would you fill in this sentence:
Sometimes it’s hard because I am _______________________, but I’m also ___________________________.
Or, if you have any suggestions for letting go of the need for certainty and embracing vulnerability – I’d love to hear them!
Perfect song for this post: Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds