Cat-In-The-Box: And What Box Do I Fit?
This box was the perfect fit for one of my young cats–so comfortable that a flash-assisted iPad photo didn’t wake her.
After stumbling on this photo in my files, I started thinking about myself and whether I fit comfortably and completely into a box–my own or someone else’s.
A few days ago, I re-established communications with my daughter-in-law. The contact was actually because of one of my grandsons. For over a year, my family and I have not been communicating. At all (except for my mother). I take that back: one of my granddaughters occasionally posts something on Facebook that I “like” and commented on. Sometimes, if I think a link or article might be of interest to my daughter, I send the information to my granddaughter and ask her to pass it along to her mother. If I wish her a happy birthday or merry Christmas, she’ll respond with “Thank you,” or “Same to you, Grandma.” My son’s family was completely lost to me for a while, so when my grandson found my “alternate” post on Facebook and wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, I was both flabbergasted and excited. This grandson is by marriage, which made his post extra-special. He was forbidden to interact with me by his mother who–rightly–monitors his activities on Facebook and other social media sites. That he had to “hunt” for me in order to post the greeting touched me in a way that I can’t describe. And I let him know that he had class for doing so.
The point is, it opened communications to one of my family branches because I had to communicate with his mother about a birthday gift. I was somewhat surprised when she responded–coolly and carefully, but it was a response on behalf of her son. When I didn’t hear from him about his birthday gift–I figured if he sent a Mother’s Day greeting, he would send a “thank you” post–I contacted his mother again asking if the gift had arrived. It hadn’t, although it had been sent via UPS and had a tracking number on it with specific information about where it was left. I sent her the tracking information after I discovered that the gift couldn’t be replaced. And we chatted through Messenger a few times, and basically mended our relationship.
Communication is key to understanding. When a person cuts communication completely, there is no way to mend a breach. I’ve discussed in a previous post somewhere why I am not the one who will feel anguish if I die tomorrow. I have made so many attempts to fix what I know my family believes is my fault–and I accept the blame for a good part of it, but not all–that I can go to my cremation with a clear conscience. Those left behind and living–those who refused communication–will be the ones left with the angst of unfinished business. I try to avoid that type of angst at all costs.
Before my father arrived at his not-unexpected death, I could tell from his voice that he was having vascular problems–that they were getting worse. I could tell from the changes, such as his inability to get through a sentence without one or more pauses for breath, that his vascular system was giving up. So I dropped everything and made sure I had closure. I booked a flight as soon as I could because I needed to say good-bye and spend time with him personally to talk and spend a few extra days with him. It had been two years since I had seen my family last, and I missed them. My sister, who lived barely an hour’s drive from my parents, knew of his condition, but somehow never took advantage of her opportunities for closure. She was a mess at the funeral, even though she wasn’t as close to my father as I was. I would like to spare my family that angst.
For whatever reason, I feel like the kids and my sister envision me in some sort of box with “them” in it. They have labeled me and psychologically tossed me away into that box. People I’ve known for many years don’t have me in a box, unless it is one labeled “friend.” I am not an easy person to be friends with and, not surprisingly, I think, my friends are more like me than different from me. They may be richer or poorer, their work and interests may be varied, but they understand me, just like I understand them. Sometimes they surprise me; sometimes I surprise them. However, all of them know I care about them and would move mountains to help them if they needed me for anything. My friends would do the same for me. I don’t know why I feel that way, but I do. Maybe we all belong in the same box–crazy women who have a strong sense of right and wrong, who care very little about a person’s origins or background, but see a person for what is inside. We are, unfortunately–or maybe fortunately, depending on one’s viewpoint–outspoken, open, and sometimes a bit too honest. Perhaps we are also demanding in the qualities of our friends, but that is pretty much a given in the description of our box.
Sometimes I think I raised my children wrong–insisting that they think about the consequences of their actions before taking them, being conscious and considerate of others’ problems or differences, being more generous toward others rather than being selfish. I tried hard, no matter what, to make my children’s lives better than mine. I tried to teach them how to make decisions better than the ones I sometimes make. I tried to help them become their own person rather than someone who another person wants them to be, including myself. I don’t know if I succeeded because, after my divorce from their father, after being “single” for almost eight years, I married a man who never took a job in the same area that we lived in; in twenty-five years of marriage, we moved four times–always major moves, always farther from family or more difficult to get to. Right now, we are living in a different country, on an island almost as far out in the Caribbean Sea as one can get (the island’s eastern border is actually on the Atlantic Ocean). It is a great place to vacation, but not the best place in the world to live. My husband makes twice as much as he earned in his last job, but the expense of living on this island has cut our savings to the bone. My sister, who lives in a huge house in Eastern Pennsylvania, cries about money woes, but continues to shop at Neiman-Marcus. Regardless of what I believe about my sister, my mother lives with her, and for that I am more grateful than I can express. My mother’s needs are few, but she has more security and a greater sense of “status” than I can possibly give her. Although I stay in touch with my mother, I know that she is not always good at transmitting messages, so I don’t know if my sister knows that I am trying to reach out to her. My sister also has me in that same “crazy lady” box that my children have put me in.
Although I have a few–very few–tendencies to “box” people, I have my sister in a box that I won’t bother to describe. I’ll only say that we are more different than alike. Or maybe neither of us see our commonalities. The same may apply to my children. But no; I do not hold grudges. My sister and my daughter do; I don’t believe my son does–he never did when he lived with me, and people don’t change as drastically as many of us would like to believe. He works long hours in a difficult job, and works far from home and on a swing-shift that ought to be illegal (one week days; next week nights). I can excuse him for not contacting me, even though it takes only a moment to say “I’m fine” in a Messenger post. Even as recently as last year, when he first took this job, most of my communication with him was through his wife.
Sometimes I see things posted on Facebook that deal with one’s own personhood and know that I am not alone. There are many people in my box with me. When I read such posts, I affirm that I am not unhappy with who or what I am or who or what my box-mates are. They are individualists who know themselves better than most people do and are comfortable with what they know about themselves.
Right now, I feel like my cat–this box is just right.