I remember as a child the stomach-wrenching glee of birthday gifts. Boxes in all shapes and sizes, wrapped in bright paper in some half-assed attempt to disguise the contents. Parties were clown-laden torture, as you had to endure everyone showing up, then games, then cake and ice cream – and because clowns are just fucking creepy. But finally – THE PRESENTS!
I’d stolen glimpses all afternoon at the table stacked with jubilantly decorated boxes, maybe even sneaking a random shake or sly squint to peer through the thinnest of wrapping papers here and there. Investigation to the Nth degree and conducted (in my young mind, at least) with sniper-like precision and stealth. Once given the go-ahead, the shred-fest would begin (I was a “ripper” as opposed to a “unwrapper’), box after box. And if I’d guessed right to a certain box’s contents…
I was disappointed.
Not always, mind you, but I’d seemed to have found a way to squelch some of my own fun by digging so deep there was nothing left to discover. Even at six-years-old, I wasn’t so good with uncertainty.
Maybe at 36 I’m not much better, but at least I’m developing a sense of how to manage the boxes.
I’m discovering that boxes in life have as many permutations as we give our minds the leeway to conjure – and the uncertainty regarding their contents drives us straight batty. It begins with an excitement – a stimulating thought, person or scenario…a NEW box!
Sometimes we get exactly what we ask for with our boxes. Every time we hit the market and buy a box of Count Chocula, it’s pretty much a sure thing we’re going to get a bowl of chocolatey cereal goodness. We do the same thing with other things in life: jobs, people. Instead of the supermarket, we hit Life Market and fill our carts up with things like:
And we happily cart them to the checkout, basking in the smug satisfaction of a well-acquired prize. We load up our cars and head home, delighted that we finally got exactly what we’ve always wanted.
But sometimes even the well-labeled box reveals disappointing content. The Ideal Client turns out to be an invoicing nightmare…the Perfect Companion to be more Perfect on Paper than practice…the Ideal Job a soul-sucking ritual at best.
What is it about the new and unknown that drives our minds to needlessly shop for answers? It’s as if we’re searching so hard and fast for a blanket of resolution in Bed, Bath and Beyond that we take a wrong turn and end up in Yonder (and there’s never anything there except those shitty Made for TV products).
Through our never-ending quest for the answers (and answers right-damn-fucking-NOW), we work-up the contents of each new box in life into something either so horrific or exhilarating that we’re left with nothing to appreciate when we really see what’s inside.
Preconceived notions taint the joy of the discovery process.
The concept of uncertainty has popped-up several times as of late – therapy, dishing with friends, a redux after a movie with a date. After all of these conversations, however, what is it I’ve wanted that I didn’t get? Shockingly enough – more uncertainty. What makes me the giddiest are the surprises and small things in life that come along unexpectedly. The boxes that I took the time to unwrap instead of rip open.
Just think – when something turns out exactly as you’ve planned, there’s no lesson, celebration, high-fives or good cries. There’s just an open box.
But what if we more often embraced the concept of appreciating the boxes before us as gifts and being wide-eyed children about their content-to-come? The unknown and uncertainties of life – without them, we’d be muddling along in some sort of Gattaca/Minority Report drum line, without any potential of a bad-ass, quirky bass line to turn our worlds upside down every now and then.
I think there’s a time and place for absolutes, but uncertainty’s omnipresence is the only absolute I’m willing to concede at this juncture. With a little shift of the mind (and perhaps opening of eyes and heart), we can see more of the boxes in front of us each day as gifts instead of cubes to shake the living shit out of and kill the surprise that accompanies the contents. Hell, I don’t know much – I’m just a twice-divorced gal who works her ass off and likes a good martini and live jazz. Take it or leave it – these thoughts of mine on uncertainty. But I’m thinking that my time might be better spent on unwrapping my life’s boxes bit by bit – changing those paper-ripping ways of mine and relishing each fold as it comes undone with the flick of a finger.
Just thinking about it brings a sly smirk to my face. There’s a lot uncertain in my life these days and if I had all the answers, my day to day wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. When we can relish each reveal and enjoy the time it takes for whatever we find perplexing/intriguing to become clear – I’m coming to discover that’s a hugely powerful place to be.
Bring on the motherfucking boxes, I say.
***special thanks to Sara for throwing the word uncertainty at me this week and if my therapist is reading this – yeah, I’m working on it.