Cage within a Cage

Inspired by something Rarasaur posted this week about a baby still in the womb: “unaware that he was in a cage within a cage”

Cages. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are made of bars, some of glass, some, dirt. Others are made of brick or stone and mortar. We keep birds in wire cages and I have two cages for my cat: one mesh and one plastic.

CAGE

noun

1. a boxlike enclosure having wires, bars, or the like, for confining and displaying birds or animals.

2. anything that confines or imprisons; prison.

3. something resembling a cage in structure, as for a cashier or bank teller.

4. the car or enclosed platform of an elevator.

5. Mining. an enclosed platform for raising and lowering people and cars in a mine shaft.

6. any skeleton framework.

7. Baseball. a movable backstop for use mainly in batting practice.

When I think of a cage, definition #2 is what mostly comes to mind. But “anything” can mean … well, anything.

Sometimes my body feels like a cage. Gravity can be a cage – a good one, at that! The law can feel like a cage, but without boundaries to keep peoples’ impulses in check, life on this planet would be a much scarier prospect.

Beliefs can be cages. An extreme example would be a religious system that literally locks you into a specific location, lifestyle, or way of dress and behavior that you feel unable to escape; but to a lesser degree, beliefs can simply inhibit rational thinking (religious snake handlers come to mind). Fear can be a cage. Ask the one suffering from agoraphobia if their house doesn’t feel like a prison. A marriage can be a cage, especially if there is abuse involved. Depression can feel like a cage. Mental illness is a cage that locks the victim inside their own mind. And aging or illness can become a cage when we are no longer able to do the things we are used to doing.

In a very real sense, we are all locked in some form of cage, and many are of our own making (whether imagined – in our thoughts, or real – as a consequence of our own actions).

I felt confined to a cage for half my life. Most of the time I did not feel ‘free’ to be myself (because being ‘me’ was declared not ok); I feared having dreams or goals because my life literally revolved around other people’s dreams and goals that were so big, they allowed no room for mine. I could not face the disappointment of allowing myself to dream. Was I locked in an actual prison? No. Could I have left my cage if I had chosen to? Yes, but not without consequences (which applies to most cages, especially gravity … if you happen to be on the 10th floor). Was everything about my cage bad? No. In fact, there were times when I was glad to be in it.

 

There are as many ways to react to a cage as there are cages. Some inspire, others depress.

Cages can even be instructive. You can learn a lot about life from inside a cage, and you can learn a lot about yourself by how you react to one. I’ve learned a lot from/about Rara by her reaction to her cage. I hope I can follow her example and allow my cages make me a better person rather than a bitter one. She and some others have taught me that you can even be in a cage and not be caged. Caged can simply mean being locked into anything without a discernible way out (a job, a financial or physical health situation, a relationship, a prison cell), but being caged can also be a state of mind. I know a lot of people who are not in a visible cage but live as if caged (like I did in my marriage), and many others, like Ra, who were in a physical cage but lived as if free.

So, what about you? Have you ever felt like you were in a cage? What was your state of mind? How did the cage change you? Were you able to find a way out – or did you choose to stay in and why?