Jean Croker Petke

Shrinking or Growing

Shrinking or Growing

“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!

Sometimes it feels like a box . . .

  • 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 . . .




Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *