Nothing Beats a Cardboard Box
Day-to-day is my reality. It's not a choice, I don't enjoy it, but it's the way life is right now. There is hope that someday I'll be able to plan out my week or even tomorrow, but for now each day remains open until the morning of. Living with complex grief and a lifetime of trauma means that, at any moment one of my million triggers can pop up and send me spiralling backwards to past thoughts and feelings, interrupting my very ability to function like a normal human. This has improved over time. My days aren't interrupted as often anymore, but I just never know.
I had a particularly rough couple weeks. One massive trigger I didn't know existed set off a series of events that equated to a lot of pain. When this happens I can only describe it as that feeling you get right before something really bad happens. Your light at the intersection just turned green, and as you start to accelerate you spot, out of the corner of your eye, a car coming full speed through the red light right before it t-bones you. That's how I feel for days after an emotional spiral. I can't calm my brain, my limbs are physically numb, And I literally have to remind myself to breathe.
Luckily, life doesn't only throw curveballs. Sometimes it throws you a perfect pitch (I just made a baseball reference - my husband really is rubbing off on me!). See, when I spiral emotionally it's hard for me to focus on everyday things like eating or paying bills, much less coming up with something cool for my son and I to do. Creativity with our activities is something I pride myself on, so when I spiral I also get really down on myself, feeling like a failure as a Mom. Then, last week, I got my perfect pitch. A box delivered to my door - a BIG box! What was inside the box wasn't that exciting, but the box itself had massive potential! As I started tearing the extra large box apart to fit in the recycling bin, I had an idea.
My son is not easy to please. He gets bored easily, and doesn't enjoy repeating many activities. But one thing he enjoys every time is a fort. We've made all kinds, with sheets and couch cushions, chairs and pillows, beads and streamers. We've made them in the living room, in the hallway,under the table - it's always a big hit. But, we'd never made one with a box before, I'd never had a box big enough.
So that's what we did. We made a fort. This one was extra cool because it had doors and windows. G liked it so much that I pulled out the stickers, crayons, paint, and beads, and we spent hours decorating it. Then, after his nap, G pulled books off his shelf and brought them into the fort for us to read. This fort was so epic it lasted 2 whole days!!! It didn't end there. I folded up the Fort and put it away, but then noticed all the other boxes around my house. So, the next day we used another one. G had long ago gotten bored with his ballpit, so instead I filled a cardboard box with balls. He immediately climbed inside and acted like we'd never done anything like that before.
The next day we built a train for G to ride in with his stuffed friends. As we rode around the house I had him point out all the balls he saw that I'd stashed around the house and we gathered them up inside the train. The next day I made a game. G has been working on his colors, so I made a color matching game out of a piece of cardboard and the balls we already own. I cut out and colored some circles so he can match the ball to the circle to put it in. Doing this he learned his first color - yellow! And finally, this morning he's been using some boxes as a platform for his farmhouse and animal friends to play.
The perfect pitch I received turned into a home run (man, my husband would be so proud!). I took a cardboard box and turned it into joy and learning for my little boy. And I learned something too. That cardboard box taught me that in times of emotional crisis I need to simplify. I need to be kinder to myself, give my brain a break, and do something simple with little G. No need to panic and make things worse for both of us because I'm short on ideas. It's like my ever-wise therapist tells me - when you're struggling give your inner child a hug. Give her some much needed love rather than criticizing her. She's allowed to feel, and if I can nurture her in the same way I nurture my toddler, life becomes a little less harsh, and a little more fun!
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