This initially was to be a post about something I mentioned in my previous entry. But My Boxes happened. That story will follow. For now…
Last weekend I attended a spiritual retreat. My randomly assigned roommate was a woman who remembered me from last year when, during our final session, I commented on my ‘boxes’ and how I know they are there, that I will open them someday; a day when I am ready and feel safe enough to do that. This stayed with her and helped to reveal a little more deeply what was going on inside her. I was touched by the knowledge that I had helped someone. We instantly connected and our weekend was full of sharing our own personal journeys, without judgement.
This year during my final session, she was not with me. Unexpectedly, one of my boxes was pried open; a box I had been quite unwilling to open. The facilitator was a naturotherapist whom I have worked with in the past. I trust her entirely. Gentle guidance and support gave me the courage to blast the cover right off. As when any box initially opens, the feelings inside are difficult to endure. The guilt, shame, and anger that erupted brought my now cold and shivering body to uncontrollable tears. Truthfully, in that moment I regretted opening it.
Following the session I took a walk around a nearby nature trail. I felt awful. Abandoned. Alone. Unworthy. I decided to go straight home to avoid our farewell sharing circle. I was an imposter, I didn’t belong there. I hoped for my roommate to be in the parking lot upon my return so I could say goodbye and craft an excuse for my early departure.
Seconds later someone was walking towards me. The only other person on the trail that day was her. We came face-to-face and I tried so hard to stick to my plan. One look in her eyes and my raw truth came spewing out. She held me tightly as I sobbed, giving her shoulder a good watering. Among the many words of encouragement, she reminded me of my boxes. That was all I needed to hear! In my darkness I couldn’t see it. She explained that this was just another box. It didn’t define me. I was ready for it. I can’t express enough how badly I needed to hear that. Arm in arm, she led me to the closing circle. As the group of beautiful women I shared the weekend with sang, there was a single fleeting moment when I felt I belonged. It felt real, reassuring, and restorative. Enough.
After walking me to my car, my roommate and I embraced for our final farewell. She whispered, “We left that box by the river.” I knew I could. I knew I would. I knew I did.
During the drive home I grieved the loss of the box, all the while welcoming this void inside me that I now had the power to replenish with forgiveness and compassion. That emotional freedom wouldn’t have happened so quickly if not for my own words being spoken at me when I needed them most.
We are our own saviours. We all have our own courage to open our boxes, and our own wisdom to console the inner self as the emotions surface. But like any work in progress, we also need a toolbox. The most effective tool is the love that surrounds us. Before our boxes, we need to open our hearts first to trust those who are there for us, those who will not judge, those who will hold us when we least feel we deserve it. Last weekend, mine was someone I had known for days.
This reminds of a scene from the movie Apollo 13. (click for video) “Well I suggest you gentlemen invent a way to put a square peg in a round hole. Rapidly.” Followed by one of the engineers emptying a box will all the contents accessible to the endangered astronauts. And they got to work. Sometimes our own rescue can feel that insurmountable, but with the support of those who care most, it is absolutely achievable.
What about you? Do you have a toolbox? You may find some tools are rusty and others are brand new, ready to be used. Do you have a box to open? If so, you may want to meditate, sit in silence, go for a long walk, seek the help of a professional, write recklessly, or talk to a trusted friend. I promise you the experience is difficult, all-encompassing, and down right easy to avoid. But if your heart is beating a little faster right now, if your thoughts are circling, if you want to stop reading, it may mean that a box really wants to open. I send you, whoever you are, the love you need to just try.
There’s a Box By The River
There’s a box by the river
The lid has long disappeared
Unexpectedly pushed open from the inside
Shaken until it popped
It’s empty now
Contents released by the river,
carried by a cool westward wind
towards a setting sun
I didn’t want to leave it there
by the river
She told me to
I trusted her
Gentle thoughts I have of the box
by the river
cradling it from afar
Its colour will change over time
tones of umber
Eventually it will rust away
by the river
Maybe one day I will forget about the box
by the river
Maybe I won’t
Either way I am forgiven
– Paula Courage