My life as a mailbox

Recently I took a stroll downtown with my daughter and on our return we noticed our mail box had collapsed. We both began to laugh, it looked so ridiculous all bent with the box dangling. Actually, we had been propping it up with masking tape for a couple of weeks now and I had promised my husband I would go buy a new one. Today the tape had collapsed and it was just hanging there. All I could think was, yup this is my life. I pulled out my phone, switched to camera mode and said “Look, my life in a nutshell!” and began snapping pictures.

Lately, it seemed like everything was breaking and it was hard to keep up, now that I had left the corporate job with its fat, automatic paycheck. I tried not to think about it as we continued joking and laughing and snapping pictures – until our neighbor noticed and walked over. As she approached, my jolly mood melted and my laughter dissolved into embarrassment. As the color of my cheeks rose I quickly changed the subject to the work she was having done at her house.

Why was I so self conscious? Surely she had seen the mailbox before this moment. Why did I need to retreat from the joy and laughter with my daughter and become stiff, formal, fake? Why must I compare my sad mailbox (and yard, and home, and self and life) to hers? Where was all this embarrassment and shame coming from, and how could this joyous time with my daughter turn into such feelings of inadequacy when nothing significant had changed from one second to the next?

Then it hit me.

A breakthough, according to Human Needs Psychologist Cloe Madanes, consists of a moment when we see things a little bit differently – from a different angle and create new meaning from the event. What I was feeling so intensely was not coming from this event at all (the mailbox OR my neighbor’s visit) – but instead from the meaning I was attaching to it – My inadequacies, my feelings of ‘poorness’ (represented by my broken mailbox) against her seeming ‘abundance’ (paid workmen coming to her home every day). Fortunately I did not have to endure these feelings very long as my daughter reminded me of our need to purchase a new mailbox before Dad got home in 45 minutes.

So off to Cash Home Center we went with the mission of a brand new sparkling mailbox – I would not be outshined by my ‘rich’ neighbor!

And as we compared the virtues of each potential mailbox at the store, discussing the nature of our problem with an earnestness and gravity as compared only to that of world peace, I began to feel a little better. Running out of time, we agreed on a white, all-in-one type and raced home beating, my husband by only a few minutes.

Upon arrival we saw that the actual mailbox was in fine shape. In fact it was still in almost new condition – and the post in the ground was also as sturdy as ever. It was the skinny little supporting pole that had weakened from last winter’s many snow storms that caused it to collapse. We thought about returning the new one and repairing that little supporting bar, but when my husband saw it he agreed we needed to start anew and began pulling out the old post.

So with the sun still shining and a perfect breeze, we assembled the brand new, white, shiny, all-in-one mailbox. It was like the end of a happy movie where the birds are singing, music is playing, the flowers are blooming, and the children are gathered. I felt rich beyond measure.

The three of us stood in our yard admiring the newly installed mailbox and all I could think about was: A white mailbox – sparkling, fresh and clean – was this a metaphor for a new life? What the  heck?! Everything in my life is the same. The house is still in varying levels of repair. Piles still adorn certain areas of the house where renovations continue “in-process”. Outside there is still dirt where there should be grass, weeds where there should be mulch, and warped boards where there should be stepping stones; and yet something in me is very different.

My break though? I decided that I am rich beyond imagination. I sleep in a comfortable bed with warm, beautiful-to-me covers; I own my own home (well me, my husband, and the bank); I have plenty of food in the pantry; I own a hot tub (a gift from my brother!) and a computer that keeps me connected to my distant sons, friends and family; I have an amazing daughter who I am delighted still enjoys taking walks with me or playing scrabble or just reading side-by-side; and a loving, patient and incredibly industrious husband.

I could go on and on, but of course the point is, the way we look at things determines so much about how we perceive and hence, how we live our lives.

And so, my perspective has been the only really significant change. The house and yard are still in-process – and so am I. The only things that are truly different and complete (for the moment anyway), are the mailbox and me…and I’m okay with that.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gretchenjdutra
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 10:58:13

    So true Raeleen! Thank you for the dose of perspective. xoxo


  2. the other Raylene
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 13:42:57

    It’s always good to hear that you aren’t the only one who goes through those strange mood swings. It’s why my blog is titled “If I were a Roller Coaster, I’d be an e-ticket.”


    • shakeupyourlife
      Dec 06, 2011 @ 15:27:59

      Hello my beautiful niece! I did not know you had a blog…I’ll check it out….My blogs are designed so show vulnerability as I shared with Arline in another comment. I believe introspection and personal insight is the best way for people to see difficult patterns in themselves. I hope you noticed I was not referring to mood swings but rather the erroneous thinking we have when we allow our emotions to hijack we all do at times. Love that you read my blog. Many thanks and see you soon.
      Aunt Raeleen


  3. Arline
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 14:31:30

    Hey Raeleen – Bravo to this blog. I can totally relate. There are so many times when I compare myself to the homes of co-workers, friends, etc. I’m ashamed to admit that there are even times when I look at my little bungalow and wonder why I don’t have more. But you’re right – I have a house (that my bubby and I own), we sleep in comfortable beds, my son is loved, clothed, fed and goes to a great daycare, my husband and I both have jobs. So, I guess the lesson is to be thankful for what you have and NEVER ashamed.


    • shakeupyourlife
      Dec 06, 2011 @ 15:22:12

      You got it girl! My blogs are designed to show vulnerability and introspection…thanks for getting it! And besides, I have SEEN your home…It is beautiful, cozy, clean, friendly, and well decorated too!


  4. Anny of the Selkies
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 15:50:40

    Well…how many times have I felt what you have so eloquently described. An excellent read I must say!


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