Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Boxed in

For years now we've had a saying in our family: "You can't put Walkers in a box."  What has always been meant by that is that (like most humans, really) we tend to be complicated and unpredictable; it's never a good idea to make assumptions about us, as we're likely to surprise you.  But last night I encountered another aspect of that phrase: if people DO put us in a box, we can get quite frantic -- which explains the dreadful boxed-in clawing feeling I had when I came home from acting class last night. 

I was working on the role of an 83-year-old woman who has spent most of her life caring for others and is beginning to be overwhelmed by the mood shifts of her querulous sister. But when the instructor said, "This character is really close to your real self, Diane; you can just kind of relax into her," some demon inside me became frantic.

... and what emerged in the character study was some serious bitterness: this character, who I'd thought was just sort of a worried nebbish, was angry about her wasted life -- and furious that her sister, who'd always been "the pretty one," was still demanding -- and getting -- all the attention.  The problem is that I don't think that's what the playwright intended; you don't see any of that bitterness in the scene at all.  So if it wasn't coming from the character, I thought, it must have been coming from me. Ouch!

But I don't have a sister, and I haven't "wasted" my life caring for others.  It's been actually very balanced in that respect, and rich with joy and fulfillment; I don't see myself as bitter at all.  So I had to wonder where all this nastiness was coming from; it was as if I'd been taken over by something very ugly, and some truly hideous inner truth had suddenly been revealed.

I still think there might be some truth floating in there somewhere -- it's always good to explore such intense feelings.  But having sat with it for a while, I think the bitterness had nothing to do with the play and everything to do with the sense that I'd been put in a box; with the possibility that the instructor saw me as old and weak and sort of unrealized.  The resentment was about not being seen, and was awakening some long standing issues with how I am perceived, but was also triggered by some new concerns about the invisibility that seems to arise as we age, concerns awakened by my father-in-law's death and my recent failure to be hired for a job I knew I could do well. 

So I could ask here the questions I asked in my post of April 11, when I first started wrestling with these issues  -- who or what are you not seeing, and what preconceptions might be blinding you?  But perhaps it may be more important to ask this: where do you feel boxed in in your life?  How might you give yourself space to honor that feeling?  And what can we do to alleviate some of that stress and resentment before it leaps out and debilitates us?

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