“The old life was too small to fit any more.” This simple phrase in The Shipping News by Annie Proulx caught my attention.
As usual, I began to carry these words with me, and I began to think about life — Life — LIFE — LIFE!
- a box completely enclosing me, top flaps in position, taped securely, windowless sides and me with no tools
- a box I can sit in, no top, short sides; it can be a boat or a car or a train, like when I was a kid. Easy in, easy out.
- an empty box that has fallen down and enclosed me while I wasn’t looking. I’ve yet to figure out how to get out from under it.
- a box with windows and doors and an open roof. I can come and go as I wish.
- a box that has collapsed in the rain; I decide to not replace it.
Sometimes it feels like a sweater . . .
- like a favorite childhood sweater — soft and fuzzy and warm — the one I wore even in summer.
- like a scratchy hand-me-down that adults said looked nice on me. I hated that sweater.
- like the one I search for, comfortable and warm enough for the day, but not stifling.
- like the smell of damp wool on a cold rainy day
But what does it mean that the old life is too small — it doesn’t fit any more?
Does it mean my life is constricting me? Like a sweater that has shrunk, and no matter how I try, it’s still too small and will always be too tight? Or . . .
Does it mean I have grown and the box where I used to play house can no longer accommodate me?
Has life shrunk or have I grown? The end results may be the same but the arrival paths are different.
Shrinking can be caused by:
- a closed mind, believing that I already know what I need to know
- a closed vision, believing I know my path, my journey, what I’m supposed to be
- a belief that others know best
- a refusal to think for myself
- always following, never initiating my choice
On the other hand, growth can occur by:
- continuous learning, listening, thinking, observing
- new adventures: theater, concerts, books, travel, music, museums, art. Go where you’ve never gone before, even without leaving your chair. Adventure is possible, no matter your circumstances.
- taking action to be different than you have been: little steps, even big steps
- believing that change is possible
I hope you’re resisting shrinkage — like plastic shrink wrap, surrounding you, tightening its grip, til escape is impossible.
Choose growth for yourself. It’s never too late.
Until next Tuesday . . .