Breaking Out of the Box

We tend to judge people the moment we meet them. Not condemn them, necessarily, but judge them. We find a suitably labelled box, and we pop them into it. Let us be honest: we all do it; and it isn’t always a bad thing. When you only have a few minutes’ experience of someone, you only get a sense of one or two dimensions of their character, and you need to proceed according to what you do know.

The problem comes when we try to keep people in that box when it doesn’t fit. When we refuse to admit that they have more than one or two dimensions to their character. (Pride & Prejudice, anyone?) When we make sweeping assumptions about what else is true of them, based on what else we keep in that box.

People often file me in the “Christian” box. This wouldn’t be so bad (since I do consider myself a Christian) but one of the fastest ways to wind me up is to make assumptions about me based on what else you’ve filed in there.
Believe me, people keep some weird stuff in that box.

I also get filed in the “young person” box a lot. This, despite the fact that people who started primary school the year I finished high school will now have finished high school themselves. OK, I’m not exactly old, but I don’t fit the “young person” stereotype. Neither do a lot of young(er) people. We aren’t all into drugs and loud music. Some of us prefer to stay home and knit. Or hang out and knit. Or crochet. Or debate theology late into the night…

Believed to be Italian nationals in a U. S. Detention camp - NARA - 196551
And then there’s the whole gender box complex. Even if your culture accepts that there are different ways of being male, or female, people still expect you to pick one and stick to it.

Example: a man may take an interest in sports. He may also take an interest in flower arranging (and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what else people keep in that box). People don’t expect a man to play rugby on Saturday morning and then go home and start messing about with roses, oasis, and variegated foliage. It makes them uneasy, as people tend to be when they find someone in two boxes at once. (Like Schrödinger’s cat, but with more boxes and less cruelty to animals.)

Or, to consider an example closer to home (my home, anyway), people have a box for the kind of woman who does hands-on stuff like reproofing an oilskin with homemade waterproofer; and they have a box for the kind of woman who wears floral dresses and aprons about the house. But I am here to tell you that it is perfectly possible to reproof an oilskin while wearing a floral dress (and you definitely want to be wearing an apron).

break the stereotype
I did it a couple of weeks ago, using this bloke’s recipe, or something like it. I didn’t have raw linseed oil, so I used wood oil instead. And I didn’t exactly measure anything. It worked, though the surface still feels a little tacky to the touch. After letting it cure in the sun for a week, I tested its waterproofness – with a small watering can, since it hadn’t rained so much as half a millimetre for a fortnight – and yup. Job done.

At the end of the day, you are who you are. Don’t bother trying to be someone else to please someone else (or avoid upsetting their prejudices). Like Cinderella’s evil step-sisters who each cut off a bit of their foot to fit in the shoe – no, that wasn’t in the Disney version – you won’t be able to sustain the deception, and you’ll end up with no prince and a munted foot.

And don’t feel guilty if you sort people into boxes yourself. Just be sure to leave the lid off.

People and their Boxes

Not the kind of box that’s full of wooly joy, but the kind of box that people put other people (or even themselves) in.

Man in a box
No, not that kind either, although ouch.

I mean the kind of boxes people use to classify each other; the boxes people file you in the first time they meet you, and try to prevent you escaping from thereafter.

What are the boxes that people try to put you in?

The Great Silence

Not the monastic zip-lip after Compline, or even the rather fascinating documentary about the Grande Chartreuse (proof that monks do indeed use the Alps as a snow-slide).  No, I refer to my lamentable lack of posts lately – due in large part to having been away for the weekend to recover from the after-effects of moving house.

Today, however, I was at home, and have finally unpacked the books! It took some time to find space for them all, but in the end the deed was done.

One of my favourite things about our new house is the study (or library) – an entire room for reading and writing! Unprecedented luxury.  One long wall of this room is entirely covered in shelves, so I didn’t even need to have much recourse to the four bookshelves we brought with us. The result of my afternoon’s labours is something like this:

Wall Paper of a sort

There is one free-standing shelf containing my mystery collection (a collection of mysteries, that is – hard to collect something if you don’t know what it is) and writing books. There’s also a lady’s reclining armchair (designed for those of us whose legs are of moderate length) and my little writing desk (aka the elegant bedside table).

Happily, these are now accessible as the thicket of book-boxes has been cleared away. The empty boxes are now rendering the laundry largely non-navigable, but that’s not such a problem. Translation: I don’t read in the laundry.

reading in the laundry hamper

Next Monday I should be able to get going on the writing in earnest.

For, to confess (is not the internet the great confessional, except without penance, privacy, or more often than not, penitence?) I have not written a word in weeks. This past week I’ve spent my extra time in the morning asleep, and I can’t even remember the last time I did morning pages. Or updated the word count spreadsheet.

OK, I checked. The last time I updated the spreadsheet was the 10th of August (yes, a month ago) and the last time I recorded anything other than blog posts was on the 24th of July.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written something since then, but yikes.

Any advice for getting back into the swing of things, or suggestions of appropriate penance?