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  • Writer's pictureDana Webster

Boxed In

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Our cats love boxes. Big ones, small ones - it doesn't matter. They'll find a way to fit. I imagine boxes make them feel safe or maybe they're just playing hide-and-seek. Either way, we toss a newly opened box on the ground and they are in it like a dirty shirt.

Chloe needs a Keep Out sign

Me? I find boxes confining. I've struggled with claustrophobia for most of my life. Not just the locked in a confined space kind of phobia, but metaphorically, spiritually, and philosophically claustrophobic.

A close cousin to this is the mighty inner voice of mine that seethes "You can't tell me what to do". I hate that. My hackles get up, my blood boils, and I dig in my heels, effectively rendering me immovable. Sometimes this is for my own good, sometimes not.

I like freedom of movement, freedom of thought, freedom to leave when I need to and the freedom to choose to stay. I like the freedom to figure myself out in my own time and in my own way. The freedom to take a risk, to royally fuck up, and to learn a hard lesson.

Trouble is we live in a world that is forever putting us in boxes, creating labels and categories, and assigning meanings to experiences that apparently define who we are. I find this tendency irritatingly limiting. Plus, it's a shell game. One day, you're with the "in" crowd, the next you're cancelled for the very same reason you were cool yesterday.

Increasingly, I see that the only way to manage the ever-changing landscape of identity is to not engage. I know what labels are being applied to me and I don't like them because labels are dehumanizing. I like to think of myself as more complex and more fluid than the limiting labels make me out to be. I also like to think of myself as more compassionate, intelligent, thoughtful and forgiving than labels allow for.

Ruby claiming her space

The kicker, of course, is that we scramble to find existing boxes or create new ones from which to look out on life. In so doing, we kick out all the "others", those who don't agree with us, or who make us uncomfortable, or who we now consider ourselves superior to.

  • Elite vs just folks

  • White vs non-white

  • Settler vs indigenous

  • Female vs male vs non-binary

  • Straight vs gay vs bi vs fluid

  • Carnivore vs vegan

  • Victim vs perpetrator

  • Christian vs non-Christian

  • Calico vs tabby

It's all so exhausting and soul-sucking. Divide and conquer works. The less we like each other, the less compassion and forgiveness we require. Hate and fear are a powerful combination. Our brains are hard-wired to react to it.

I call bullshit on all of it.

What if we did like this, instead? Everyone is unique. Sometimes we get along and sometimes we don't. Sometimes I want to be alone and sometimes I want your company. I respect your space and your right to just be you. No one has to hate or ostracize anyone else to make themselves feel like they belong, like they are important or worthy. We all just are. (Hey, I need something good to believe in these days).

Interested in reading some of my original prose?

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