boxes –  noun | \ˈbäks\

: a rigid typically rectangular container with or without a cover

Lately, life seems to involve a lot of boxes. Online shopping purchases are delivered in boxes. Trips to Costco involve goods packed in boxes. Gifts wrapped in holiday paper require just the right box. And a few times, I’ve actually walked into the post office carrying individual items to be shipped off to family members hoping to find the perfect box.

In the past, I’d lay the items on the counter then pull out various flat-rate priority shipping boxes and try to figure out which box was best. I’d end up with a box that was too big for the items, or too many items for the box. Once, I had a light-weight toy nearly ready for shipping when the post office clerk chastised me (well, almost) for shipping it in a flat-rate box. “Don’t use that box. It will be cheaper if you use one of the other ones with standard shipping. Try this size,” she said, pointing to a box I was certain would be too small.

“Well, I thought about that one, but I don’t think it will fit,” I said.

Clearly exasperated with me, she walked around the counter, grabbed one of the flattened boxes, folded it up into its intended shape, and fit the toy in it like they were made for each other.

“Well,” I said, feeling a little embarrassed. “I guess this isn’t your first rodeo.”

Now, I walk in with my items, go immediately to the counter, and ask, “What size of box would you recommend for these items?”

The wrong box causes all kinds of problems. If it’s too big, things will slide around and break. If it’s too small, I have to leave something out, something I really wanted to send. Sometimes, I shouldn’t even be using a box. In some cases, a padded envelope works best.

My Word of the Week: Boxes

Of course there’s more to this than just boxes. In fact, I’ve been thinking about my life as a box. Sometimes, I feel like I have too many things (priorities, activities, interests, etc.) I’m trying to squeeze into my life. When I have to leave something out, I feel frustrated. I wish my life were bigger: that I had more time, more energy, more connections, more talent. At other times, I try to limit what I’m putting into my box — I pare back my activities, priorities, and interests — and end up feeling like there’s too much space around the edges, like something is about to break.

Then there are the times when I am thinking “box” when actually what I need is an envelope. Some of the structures I’ve created for my blogging, writing, editing, and other work feel too restrictive. I need the flexibility that a padded envelope (or maybe a padded room) might offer.

The problem with boxes is that one size doesn’t fit all. Boxes aren’t like Snuggies or slippers or ski masks. Neither is life. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be experimenting to see exactly what shape my life and work needs next.

I might even ask the lady at the post office.

What’s YOUR word of the week? Drop it into the comments section, or share it on this week’s Facebook post. If you post about your word on your blog, please slip the link into a comment below so I can stop by and join you.

Photo by Craig Sunter, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.