End Up In Boxes

(This is part of an ongoing series of highlights from past Listen to Life newsletters.  Many readers and subscribers were not following when this came out.  Enjoy.)


“I was thinking in the end, does everything end up in a box?”  My friend asked this question in an e-mail to me that was detailing boxes in her recent days:  Those that contained the life of a friend of hers who was moving to Florida to be taken care of for Alzheimer’s, and the one that held a former colleague of hers who recently died of breast cancer.  Basically, she is right.  I also have to wonder about how often we place ourselves and our lives into boxes while we are alive, and how little share from what is in the boxes.

Don’t put yourself in a box too soon.  The end will come soon enough when your remains will go in a box, or an urn or get scattered to the winds, so why place yourself and all your talents and potential to feel and experience in a box any sooner than necessary?

We bury ourselves alive by choice; we choose to inhibit our potential, restrain our ability to think and act, restrict our senses of curiosity and discovery, or deny our right to a full life that harnesses our talents, abilities, faults and foibles.  These are not good choices.  Those decisions manifest themselves in our choices of jobs, relationships, hobbies, volunteer activities, education and more.  Are we making choices in all those areas that put us in, or keep us out, of boxes?

Consider the other things we put into boxes, particularly the papers and items that comprise our life through letters, notes, cards, photos, memorabilia.  How often do we share those things, and their stories, with people around us?  How often do we give from those collections to others who can appreciate them, like our children and old friends?  We put our lives into boxes and then hide them until our bodies are put in boxes and our relatives rummage through containers before the estate sale:  treasures are lost.

I conducted a journal/photography workshop for Girl Scouts in Albuquerque a few years ago for girls 14-16.  At the stage where they had beautiful books with photos and stories and hand art that revealed their lives, I asked them how many wished their moms could hand them a similar book with “this was me at your age.”  They all enthusiastically responded yes.  Are we so caught up in “providing for” our children with money—current needs and through our estate—that we forget to enrich them now by revealing who we were and who we are?

One last thought on boxes, brought to you by Malvina Reynolds.  Her song, “Little Boxes,” was sung by the likes of Pete Seeger.  Woody Guthrie did a Beatnik version revealing how all the nonconformists all sounded the same, too.  As my friend questioned whether everything ends up in boxes—our bodies, our stories, our possessions—we’re also reminded by listening to others that perhaps our minds end up in boxes as well.

Little Boxes

by Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of tickytacky
Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same
There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses all went to the university
Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers, and business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp and then to the university
Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

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