The Camera Box

A few years ago I borrowed one of my brother’s cameras. I was thinking about buying a point-and-shoot to have around the house for those times when I wanted a little better quality than I could get with my then-current phone. He had used this one for several years and thought it might be just what I wanted. I was welcome to keep it as long as I liked.

I was surprised when I got it to see that it was in the original box, still nestled in its protective wrap, with all cables and documentation neatly alongside. I was very careful each time I used it to put it back exactly as I found it. I didn’t keep it long.

I liked it enough, though, to buy my own. I don’t use it often, but like to keep it handy just in case. I set it, in its original box, with all the original packaging, on a shelf in the dining room. Late this winter, I went to grab it to take some pictures of our epic snowbanks and realized I was grumbling to myself about how long it was taking to dig it out of its little cocoon. What was I doing?

There was no reason for me to keep it in the box, other than that’s what my brother had done. I don’t keep original packaging. I just don’t. I let my kids cut the tags off their Beanie Babies; I recycle my Willow Tree Angels boxes. I am not that person! I bought a little case and dumped the box.

How many other camera boxes are cluttering my life that I’m just not noticing? Whose ways of doing things, whose attitudes, or preferences, or values have I adopted without questioning? I need to pay more attention to those times I’m grumbling to myself—there might be clues there.

Have I been too quick to accept other people’s ways of doing things as “the right way” without asking whether it’s the right way for me? How many pictures did I miss, because I couldn’t be bothered to dig out the camera? How many times have I stopped myself from making changes, or simply enjoying my life, because someone else’s right way was all wrong? Those can be scary questions to ask when you’ve been married thirty years. They might trip all those booby-traps I’ve set, the ones that blow up parts of my life when I dare think about changing.

On the other hand, they might lead to more conscious acceptance of (and less grumbling about) those things that I’m really okay with, but don’t like to admit. That might mean finally acknowledging that I don’t have all the answers, that my way isn’t always best, that I’m doing things differently not because I have to, but because I actually see the value in it—I’m just too stubborn to admit it.

Either way, maybe it’s time to tune in to that grumbling a little closer, try to hear what it’s really saying. Am I fighting myself or someone else? For my brother, the camera box provided protection and organization. For me, it was nothing but an unnecessary hindrance. We were both right. I had no right to throw his box away, but I should have recognized sooner that it was fine to toss my own.