I think a lot about boxes. Cardboard societal conventions or things people stuff you in under their bed. I write a lot about boxes. Searing acid burns against the flesh of identity, cattle prods. But I've said before, boxes aren't real, someone made them up. There is, however, one box I believe in. There is a box that was made with no semblance of uniformity, a box that might sparkle when you hold it at just the right angle of light, a box that might be full of sugar, a box that might be full of hate. There is a box that we all have, or were at least given, maybe some of us do our best to never use it or fill it or take it out of its carefully guarded closet.
My box is pink and sage and covered in flowers and cut up magazines and glitter and misplaced clothes and jewelry and earring backs and books and half filled diaries and letters. It's somewhere, underneath a pile of blonde hair and reasons why I don't want you to locate the box. You see, if someone found my box, they might use it to store their own things inside of, which would be fine, I can share. But sometimes when someone begins to use your space as their own, all of the things that belong in their own special box begin to suffocate the things that are uniquely yours in your uniquely you box.
Your special box is your special place, to put inside of what you cherish most. That is why I have always hidden my box; who knows what someone could do if they got their hands on all of the things that mean the most to you? There are a lot of times in our lives when the best move seems like it is to shut the box, to lock it, and to only bring it back out when the sun is shining and the monsters have all been reduced to ash in its light.
I used to put bad things that didn't belong to me inside of my box, insecurities, jealousies, fears, anxieties, and scars. I thought that the good things in my box could smother these foreign contents with love, I thought that if I loved the adopted contents enough that they would change into new things, I hoped my box would overflow with love. Instead, the bad things started to eat away at the good things in my box. I felt myself becoming insecure, scared, angry, jealous, and empty. I had to clean out my box, sew it back together in the parts that had become worn, scrub off the corners that had collected mold and dust. I lined it with soft things, I filled it with new flowers, different kinds, poured water on the floor and splashed my feet in it. My box had lost things that I thought were important, but I realized my box was just so used to being strangled that it had forgotten how well it could breathe without help.
I put my box on a shelf. I still carried it with me everywhere, but it was mine. If someone else wanted to share my box with me, they'd have to be gentle and good at climbing. I didn't believe in people that knew how to properly handle my box.
Then, my box got knocked off its shelf, in a clumsy, silly way. It came toppling off the shelf and you caught it on the way down, keeping all of the contents intact. We poured candy and lots and lots and lots of coffee into my box. We laughed a lot, so we put some of that in mine and some in yours. There were nights we couldn't remember clearly but we still put them in, just in case. There were little fights and a big fight and a million blonde hairs and poems, we put them all in. We put our debates and our movies and our successes and our failures into the boxes, all of them into both. I put words that you said casually inside the walls of my box so that when I looked around, I would always see how loved I was. I put fingerprints, perfume, post it notes, lipstick all over the walls of your box, so you could see the same. We put people we loved into each other's boxes and things we hated into each other's boxes. I thought that bad things would unearth themselves and come crawling out to eat away at the happy boxes, I thought that the bottoms of the boxes would cave in from all of the wonderful things we were putting inside of them. I thought that my box would overflow as I was walking down the street and that I would carelessly miss an important piece flying away from me like a red balloon. I thought that one day you would ask for all of the things you put inside of my box back and I would have to unpack them, soaking wet with love and trust and tears. Whenever you asked for my box, it was only to put more things inside of, it was only to tip me over with the immensity of your love.
My box no longer sits on a shelf, in fact, you can never find it in just one place anymore. It is scattered all over the continental U.S., part of it is even in Brussels. I used to think that a heart is meant to be kept locked away, safe and sound, until the perfect key comes on the perfect day to set it free and simultaneously coddle it like an infant. I used to think that a heart had a cap, a maximum amount of love that could be inside of it before it burst into pieces and shattered all over a cold tile floor. But I look at my heart now, my box, and I know there is no such thing as too much love. I know now, there is no such thing as bad love, there is only what we mistake as love. I know now, that when you submit yourself to the immensity of God, of the world, of how much love there is to be found, in all of the dirty corners of the all the boxes, love comes. Not good love or bad love or real love or fake love or young love or old love or strong love or weak love, just love. It comes in with the morning light and warms you and cherishes you. Love does not consume or suffocate your box, love is what fills your box.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your box overflows with love.