I’ve always considered myself a pretty open person: open to discussion, education, trying new things, disagreement, dancing when people are looking. It wasn’t until I read Christine Organ’s Open Boxes, though, that I discovered my open appearance is a facade.
“The world can be a drab, disheartening, and downright nasty place at times. It’s no surprise that we find it easier to simply separate ourselves with our pretty boxes, stuffing our hopes and fears into plastic flip-top receptacles.”
I’ve been separating the good from the bad because it seems wrong to package them together. Why is that? Certainly goodness has always coexisted with awfulness. One doesn’t have to fully eclipse the other. I needn’t feel shame for being happy even amid a world fill with cruelty, sadness, and despair. I can still be me, the me who enjoys laughing. But, lately, my boxes have been sitting neatly beside one another, yet wholly separated. Fear has a box. Inside it is all the side eyes and comments I’d get if I were to share a happy picture “too soon” after my own commentary on another senseless, tragic death. But that’s what I do. It feels normal to flit from thing to thing; they’re all happening simultaneously.
Flitting doesn’t mean forgetting.
What I liked most about the book is that it isn’t a typical self-help, ohm, find your way to inner peace, namaste kind of book. It is authoritative yet guiding. You will consider the relatable (how is that not a word?) analogies because it’s easy to do so. You won’t feel bombarded by worrying about why you haven’t achieved removal of the boxes yet or why your inner peace is alluding you (I’m looking at you, Deepak Chopra). You’ll just feel like you’ve been given things to consider, maybe differently from how you were previously thinking. Don’t be afraid; this is a good thing.
There’s a lot of talk lately about introverts vs extroverts and how to deal with either. In Open Boxes, Organ gets us to consider this, even if covertly. Are you a natural introvert or is it self imposed? Why is that box there, keeping you from having a fulfilling life? (This is not to suggest, though, that having boxes is a bad thing. It’s what you use them for/do with them that causes trouble.) Organ challenges us to look deeper, interrogate ourselves. She does so with specific moments from her life. One that resonated deeply with me was self care, because for various reasons, it’s simply hard to maintain. I don’t do it enough.
At the same time, she reminds us that “not enough” is a plague. This phrase used to run rampant through my head, throughout the day as I lamented all I had intended, but was unable, to do. It started to saturate other parts of my day: I didn’t spend enough time on my hair; my dress didn’t fit well enough; I didn’t have enough cabbage for that night’s dinner; there wouldn’t be enough time to wash more than one load of clothes. “Not enough” started to invade my life. But Organ is right when she says this does nothing but lead us to the dreaded “Comparison Game.”
Organ feeds into our desire to identify. She tells fluid, good-natured stories that we readers can undoubtedly relate to. It makes the book more enjoyable, less here, do this exercise to achieve removal of the various boxes you’ve created to keep people out. Instead, readers are subtly asked if they want to discover ways to a more open life (open is relative; she’s not telling the reader HOW to fix themselves). It’s an invitation to travel with Organ on her journey and discover what one can along the way.
So, are you open? Do you compartmentalize? Are your figurative life boxes open or shut? Do you have too many? Do you feel unfulfilled, like the keeping of the boxes, the separation of aspects of your life (from yourself or others) is weighing you down? Read Open Boxes and answer these questions, find ways to combat the boxing up of your true self. Be open to wonder, about yourself, your surroundings, how you’re affected by those around you, those afar, happenings in the world, even how the Internet works (hell if I know). “Wonder holds us captive for a few moments to the magic and mystery. It holds open a space between the question and any possible answer, whispering let’s just rest here a bit. Wonder tingles, tantalizes, stills, and calms.”
Be open to it. “Box-keeping doesn’t work all that well for those of us who want a life of meaning, purpose and joy.”
Open Boxes is available to order here.
I received a copy of Open Boxes to review. All enjoyment, enlightenment, and words herein are my own.