A few weeks I visited the Museum of Brands in London’s Notting Hill Gate area. It was fascinating to look at the many packets and tins spanning the decades from Victorian times to the present. (There are also fashions, household appliances and toys to see; it’s a great, nostalgia fest if you’re in London.)
Almost every packaged item I saw was either a cardboard box with a simple tuck-in top, a metal tin with a lift off lid or a can for which a can opener would have been needed. Although the old style can openers with sharp ‘teeth’ which were operated using a sawing motion could sometimes be dangerous, they were easy to use and generally effective.
This got me thinking and asking myself why practically everything we buy now is such a challenge to open?
Recently I was faced with a plastic envelope printed with a clear line across its flap, along which I was instructed to “tear here”, only to find the plastic stretching and stretching but still denying me access to the contents. How I was supposed to return the item in this same envelope if I’d decided not to keep it is a mystery, very little of the envelope being intact once I’d finally opened it.
Cans with a ring-pull opening might look easy to open. However, I generally find that the lid only pulls back to halfway across the can, meaning that the contents have to be dug out with a fork or the lid bent into the can then out again several times before it finally lifts away, shooting liquid in my face if I’m not very careful.
Then there are the vacuum packs. I’ve lost count of the times that opening a vacuum-packed filling for a ‘quick’ lunch has led to a broken fingernail or a cut finger as I’ve resorted to scissors or a knife in my attempt to prise apart the thick plastic layers at the corner of the pack so clearly marked “peel here”.
Opening vacuum-packed fish is a particular bugbear, as frustration sometimes leads me to apply a burst of almost super human strength, resulting in the pack finally opening and covering me in fishy smelling liquid.
My worst packaging nightmare though, has to be the very thick, hard-edged plastic cases around new electric toothbrushes. While I understand that they need to be packed hygienically, I’d almost rather pull out all my teeth than face having to try and open any more of these brushes.
If I find it hard to release these foods and household items from their secure packaging, how much more difficult do I sometimes find it to release the real me from the protective layers I sometimes feel I need to build up, especially when depression heightens my vulnerability.
When I’m at my lowest, I feel trapped inside thick, impenetrable layers, unable to move or to shift to get just slightly more comfortable.
Times like that are when I really have to search for the Sunlight Through the Shadows. For the messages and prayer support from concerned friends and the sense that, however deeply I feel I need to bury myself, God still sees me, loves and values me and will help me, in time, to break out from the place I’ve been trapped in, to emerge with renewed energy and commitment.
Some of those packets and cans in the museum are now empty but others remain unopened; their contents never seen or likely to be seen, hidden and unused though possibly still intact.
As a result of recent Quiet Days I’ve attended, I’ve begun to understand and to claim my ‘belovedness’ as the core of my personality. Being opened and opening up (that peeling back of the tightest layers) takes time, especially when trying to avoid the jagged edges of the packaging but it’s also a beautiful and exciting process.
I give thanks that there is still so much more to come, so much more I can show and achieve. I’m definitely not going to be left on a shelf!