Remember when western movies and TV shows about cowboys were popular? Box canyons were an expedient part of the plot. They have steep walls on three sides, allowing access and escape only through the mouth of the canyon or by climbing its walls. Actually, box canyons were used in the American west as convenient corrals with only the entrance fenced.
In the movies or on TV, the good guys chased the bad guys into a box canyon and apprehended them, or the bad guys lured the good guys into the canyon, where riflemen posted on the walls of the cliffs tried to “pick them off.” Escape? Impossible! But only for the bad guys. If the unsuspecting heroes entered the box canyon, they always found a way out—either by reversing their path or climbing the steep walls.
I’ve been stuck in my own box canyons. I’ve confidently followed a path until I found myself unable to go forward and unwilling to go backward. Often, the canyon walls were steep and I too tired and my load too heavy to climb. Eventually, I searched my mental saddlebag and came up with a solution.
When in my late teens, I wanted a place of my own. However, my mother insisted I live at home until married—very old-fashioned. I refused to “tie the knot” to leave home. At first, I felt paralyzed and boxed in. No decision would be pleasant. It took a while, but I finally discarded the restraints of my mother’s message and found a place of my own. Of course, I felt her considerable disapproval in the process, but I knew it was best for me, and I did it anyway. I escaped that box canyon.
Another box canyon arose later when I considered marriage. My childhood church taught that men were both the physical and spiritual heads of the home. I didn’t want anyone to be my head—spiritual or otherwise. I decided I wouldn’t marry at all if it meant giving up my individuality. Luckily, I eventually found a Christian man who believed in partnership—not headship. That fit my philosophy to a tee, and out of the canyon I rode.
Leaving a box canyon often takes more than one try. In my early 20’s , I worked in the health care industry. When I heard of a challenging job opening within the company that would give me a promotion with more pay, I applied. The executive director told me in no uncertain terms that I had neither the personality nor the background to handle the job. She hired someone else. That employee quit within weeks after discovering the work too difficult. I applied again and received the same answer. She hired yet another person. That person went home ill and didn’t come back. I applied again, this time suggesting that the way she was handling it wasn’t working and maybe she should reconsider hiring me. She finally gave in and chose me with the stipulation that it was a three-month trial. I dived in (or climbed out) and kept that position for a few years.
With my new book coming out and another in the making, I’m now in a creative box canyon. To climb out, I must lighten my load. I must drop all unnecessary things from my saddlebag (overscheduling, not delegating, saying “yes” to what I don’t have time for). Only then can I escape. I am seeking help with my website and marketing management. I plan to meet with publishing professionals in the near future in order to free my time from other business aspects of writing. I’ve also hired help with the house, and I am taking care not to overload my calendar. I’m part way up the canyon walls now. Hopefully, the bad guys (discouragement, defeat and delay) won’t “pick me off” before I can climb out of this box canyon and be able to hear my muse.
Box canyons afford an opportunity for growth and change. Life presents many of them to all of us, and with each we have opportunity to find our paths and values–and to listen to our inner voices. Experiencing boxed canyons and finding a way out is difficult. Some I have handled well–others not as well. However, I have found them all to be beneficial.