Who knew this would happen. As I hurtled past the half century mark in my life feeling great and looking forward to the next bit, who knew that behind me lay a couple of really huge boxes packed full of truths about myself. Myself as I have been experienced by others.
Straining against the lids of these boxes, these truths have lain dormant for as many as thirty years of accumlated perceptions, resentments, hurts and even rage held tightly within. Now, as lids fly open, I find myself resting against the tree of my own truths, absorbing these understandings now frantically buzzing around my head.
We all have them, we all know what this means. No matter who you are, if you care to look you may very well find that someone you love dearly, have loved for years if not your whole life, has a whole box full of thoughts, fears, insecurities and examples of your misdemeanors, mistakes and careless blunders very tightly packed away within what was recently described perfectly to me as: “A box”.
“I have this box”, I was told, “and everything I feel about you is packed in here…”
I love the person who told me this, very dearly. Willing and able to hear it now, I listened with interest, embarrassment, pain and some humour whilst I was summarily presented to myself as something far from attractive. Buzzing and hissing with a multitude of ill-advised patterns of behavior and cleary out of control emotions, this was a me I might have preferred not to see.
It’s not pleasant to hear of your past self in this way – but what I found particularly interesting about this experience is how profoundly liberating it is to see yourself through someone else’s eyes.
No use and no need to defend. What’s done is done. What is perceived is perceived and cannot be changed. To what end, putting your point of view across. The person whose box that is, is not likely to be listening for explanations – nor are they likely to care about your point of view. What they are doing is explaining to you how and why, from their point of view, your relationship has reached an impasse.
I asked who knew. I suppose I should have known. To most of you, my question is rhetorical. Sadly, believe it or not, I genuinely did not know these boxes were there at all. So far, I have been presented with two.
The first “box” I encountered came at me from a very oblique angle. I had seen no obvious signs of built up resentments, hurts, insecurities and/or rage. That is not to say those signs weren’t there – they were probably right in front of my eyes. But I had failed to see them. In this first case it felt as though the lid of that box was dragged off – both by me in total ignorance, and her in outraged frustration – releasing some very old flies indeed. Flies of my perceived misdemeanors weakly flapped around in a kind of stew of stuff, until finally, and very reluctantly, the fog cleared to reveal these perceptions for what they truly were. A list of not pretty, loose examples of indefensible behavior, and very unnattractive perceptions had accumulated in this box across the years and were now flying my way.
They flew around me for a full year of my life. I said these flies were old – they were. They were also tired – so very tired from years of cruel enclosure their wings flapped weakly before my eyes, clouding my view enitrely. Some of these perceived characteristics of mine were arguable perhaps, but, as I have said, to what end. My point of view, my own perceptions and memories were of no interest to her. So be it.
I walked away leaving the lid of that box wide open and wonderfully empty! A little bruised, a little the wiser, but very pleased about the resulting release for us both in the end, I found this unpleasant experience incredibly liberating.
The second box is a whole different matter.
This week I was handed the key with which to open this box. I asked for it of course. This key did not appear of it’s own accord. But, when requested, it appeared right there before me on a kitchen table glinting in the afternoon sunshine as cleanly and brightly as a bar of shiny, pure gold! With this key the box was opened, and out flew the flies.
No, it also wasn’t pretty – and of course while these flies were not as old, nor as tired as the first flies I have mentioned, there were some familiars that I could recognise and acknowledge. With energy, these flies buzzed around me explaining in no uncertain terms what they were and why they were there. There was no fog – not even the lightest mist. Instead of drawing breath in pain, I expelled air from my lungs with the immediate joy of release that true understanding can give us.
I love her – and I shall thank her for the rest of my life for giving me the gift of that key. As she said herself, neither of us had any idea it would be “so simple”. It can be. I believe the gift of understanding is one of the most beautiful gifts anyone we love can ever give us.
Are you thinking of Pandora’s Box. Of course you are – and let’s not forget the mythology. Wikipedia it – you can read a very cursory synopsis of that story written in the bland but reasonably accurate way in which Wikipedia tell a story. What resonates for me here is this bit:-
“Pandora opens a jar containing death and many other evils which were released into the world. She hastened to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped except for one thing that lay at the bottom – ELPIS. ( usually translated as “hope”, though it could also mean “expectation”). Quote: Wikipedia – main article Pandora.
Leaning against my tree of truths as I am, truths merely perceived to be such and/or otherwise, I find my heart alive and burning with hope.