It was a pretty big box.
I pulled the dusty container out of the closet from under the stairs where it had been hiding in the far back corner for over a decade.
It was like finding a long lost treasure.
On the top of the box I spied a barely legible label with the words “Home Videos” scrawled on it, that led me to my first clue of what I would find inside.
I had a faint memory of stashing the box when we had first moved in, back in 2005, but it had not seen the light of day since.
I dragged it out of its dungeon and surveyed its condition.
Not too bad, considering how long it had been under there.
I cut it open, and peeled back the flaps of the box while standing back just far enough to allow passage for any displaced spiders that might have decided to make a run for it.
I waited. No spiders.
Hmmmmm, what treasures had been discovered here?
I felt like an archaeologist that had just unearthed an ancient artifact, and I began to more closely survey the contents of the box.
It was full of tapes. Old VHS tapes to be exact. Some of them with labels, and some of them were unmarked. I counted 44 of them in total. And on the bottom of the box, underneath the tapes, was an old rickety VCR. I could not even recall the last time I had seen a VCR, so I suspected that the material was extremely dated.
We had finally purchased our first video camera back in 1994, the year my first son was born.
So, I knew…
that my two (now) high school, and college aged boys were on those tapes. On those thin layers of recorded ribbons…
with their lost teeth, and their first steps. With their baby faces, and their sweet little boy voices. Bath times, and Birthdays, and roller-skating boo boos.
I began to get excited thinking about all of the lost memories I had just recovered. I was poised to dive in and unpack it all…
Until it hit me.
I was on those tapes as well.
All 290+ pounds of me. And not all of those memories were welcome ones.
Suddenly my treasure box felt more like Pandora’s Box, and I hesitated.
Of course I had seen hundreds of photos of myself at my heaviest over the years, especially since the digital age, but this was different.
This was more than a staged photo from the neck up of me trying to look my best with the right angle and a pretend smile.
This was real life.
This was a live action window into my former suffering that was unfiltered, unedited, and uncut.
Back in the day, there were no fancy apps or edited montages set to music. Back then, it was what it was, and sometimes, what it was, was often painful to watch.
It was such a juxtaposition.
Part of me wanted to pop in those tapes immediately, and watch them while curled up on the couch with my boys, reminiscing through yesteryear, and revisiting our lives. I wanted to relive all the memories with them and hear their take on all of it.
But I knew it was going to be an emotional roller coaster.
I felt like I had cheated them out of the mother they should’ve had, and there was no way to change it.
I knew it was going to be bittersweet and hard to see.
I knew I was opening Pandora’s box, and unleashing an unyielding torrent of raw emotions. I was going to have to face all of my discomfort, and be reminded of some hard truths that I had shielded myself from for a lot of years.
I knew I would have to remember firsthand, what it was like to be in that place, trapped in that body, struggling to make it look easier than it was, but to no avail.
I had clung to an image in my mind of how things were back then, or at least how I “pretended” they were, that had allowed me to distance myself from my harsh reality. And now I was about to have a front row seat, and to be confronted with how far I had let it go.
To see myself that way……….
In the midst of a bad marraige, morbidly obese, tired, riddled with health problems, breathing heavily while struggling to participate, and stoically sitting on the sidelines.
I had given up.
It was going to be like watching the Titanic headed for its disasterous and inevitable conclusion.
Why did these two completely polarizing things have to exist together?
Why did all of these sweet memories of my beautiful boys and their childhood have to be intermingled and layered in with all of those terrible memories depicting my failure to thrive, my gradual physical deterioration and plagued by a constant struggle to avoid a slow suffocation of spirit?
But alas, there is wisdom in the asking.
For unless we remember where we have been, we cannot determine the value of having been there.
And in order to appreciate where we are, we have to embrace where we once were.
So, as long as we reconcile ourselves with the origins of our pain…we can capture it, and reshape the complex beauty that emerges from it.
After Pandora opened her box and let out all of the negative forces and ills of the world, her mistake was not in the act of opening it.
Her mistake, upon realizing what she had done, was in acting on her immediate regret, and closing it too quickly, thus inadvertently keeping the positive forces at bay, and leaving all Hope trapped inside.
If she had known that the box in her possession had contained both the bad AND the good, she might not have acted so hastily.
We cannot acheive balance without both positive and negative forces.
What I know now, is that opening Pandora’s box is not to be avoided, but to be done with reverence perspective.
Unleashing its contents in their entirety allows both the good and the bad to exist in a way that lets us see the light inside of the dark.
And when I opened my box…………….
I encountered both.
And both brought me to a place of peace.
So when you find yourself faced with a box of your own, don’t be afraid to open it, because a deeper treasure lies within it.
Trust yourself, and know,
that sometimes, in order to allow the good to escape,
you may need to leave the lid open a bit longer,
just a crack…
and wait for it.