This past week has been a very strange trip. Between my 29th birthday, the global uproar over racism and inequality, the violence, the hurt feelings and the general unrest... I was reluctant to write anything this week. I have never felt further from eloquent; disordered in my thoughts and restless. It's the perpetual challenge of being a highly sensitive person. I feel the pride and the pain, the guilt, the anger, the happiness, the joy, the fear, the movement. It's. all. so. weird.
June has sent me back to therapy and I'm grateful for it. I'm finding more and more that my tribe is searching for support, for love and guidance and working on myself continuously gives me the energy to show up for them. This time of unrest has reawakened old coping strategies. Binging, overindulgence, overspending... it's all so thrilling but so destructive. I'm continuously shifting how I show up for myself, constantly working on my connection to myself. I'm uneasy and leaning into the discomfort. But the coolest thing to come out of this month so far are the connections I am making with whole-hearted, beautiful people.
I have for a long time, had difficulty finding friends. I have made a lot of acquaintances on my travels and fell into relationships by six-degrees. That's easy. But finding true, lasting, thriving friends that stoke my fire instead of blow it out has been a struggle for most of my life. Why couldn't it be as easy as trading Pokemon cards on the school yard or inviting each other to birthday pool parties anymore? Because at some point early on, we are ashamed to put ourselves out there for fear of rejection, for fear that someone, who just doesn't jive with our spirits, deny parts of us. We put on an impenetrable armor to protect ourselves from horrible monsters, but don't realize that we're keeping other heroes out and creatures lurking within. We deny ourselves the freedom to find those real people and we deny ourselves the experience of being our own friend.
Connection is part of our story. From an early age we learn to fit ourselves into tiny friend-shaped boxes so that we can stack on top of each other and build tall, immovable structures; brick-by-brick, box-by-box. We make ourselves small, contort ourselves to fit the box, ignore the discomfort, break ourselves and come to know it as normal, eventually. That's how we build friendships in adolescence and early adulthood, in my experience anyway. Being a friend meant contorting to fit whatever label was given to you at the expense of your sanity and soul. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was occasionally mean to other kids in order to fit in. Or dabbled in destructive behaviors to belong. Or simply went out of my way to foster and prioritize their well being over mine. Eventually, you forget how to live without your box. You become the box. You are Boxxy Brown.
In 2009, I met a friend on my first day of university and I swear, for the first time, it was as if someone opened the lid so I could breathe. It was foreign and gentle and in hindsight, the primordial moment of realization and recovery. It was the first time that someone didn't need anything from me. She just wanted to be around me. She wanted me to stretch my limbs and see what I could do, what I was capable of. She was soft and yet insistent. She made me move and dance and figure it out. She helped foster my curiosity for helping others out of their own boxes.
It's been over a decade and I am still learning, recovering and chasing a purpose and what I need in this world. I expect it will take just as long to heal my shame as it was to build it. And while my speed-dial list has gotten far smaller over the years, I have never felt more loved, more wanted and more whole (well, almost). I am a true believer in people coming into our lives at the time we need them most, whether forever or for now. We learn lessons through people and the stories they tell. I have learned to be my own best friend. I have learned what true connection looks like since setting aside my box. Like a honeybee, I have been able to flutter, fly and find the sweetest treats while also building and fostering my hive. I'm building connections around people I am drawn to and bring out the parts of me that I simply adore. I have learned that I have a voice, a body and a choice. There will come a time when those things can no longer fit inside a tiny box.
I don't know what kind of box you call home. I don't know who gave it to you, what color it is or the position you put yourself in so that you could fit inside. But listen...
The weather out here is quite lovely. At first, the aether will feel empty and foreign but you'll come to know it as smooth and light. Your bones will crack and your muscles will strain as you outstretch your limbs and marvel at the sky. It will be bright and it may sting a little but you will bask in its glow and there will be moments when it will be just as dark as your box, but you will find comfort in it, instead of fear. You'll be exposed to the elements, naked and vulnerable to people who will attempt to coax you back inside your box, or a new one. But you will also meet people who will clothe you and dance with you until you are too kinetic to be stabilized. You will meet fear, rejection, pain and stagnation out here too but you will also meet security, community, love and innovation. You will learn dichotomy and discern what that means to you.
You can see my box, just over there in the corner of the room. I still step into it once in awhile just to remember what it was like, but it's hard to believe I was that freaking small. I'm grateful I'm out and that I still own it; that's where I keep the memories. When you're ready, if you want, you can place your box next to mine. I can crack the lid and you can decide what to do after that. I'll be here dancing, free flowing, with all the other uncaged, loving on you until you're ready to join us.