Bringing order to chaos

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A few nights ago, there was an unfortunate incident. For the past few weeks, on entering my daughter’s room, I heaved a huge sigh and declared she “must clean up this disgusting mess”. After years of attempting to create an organized child out of a free-spirited one, I refused to lift a finger in an effort to help her help herself. Well, she helped herself alright. She helped herself to a piece of my sanity, which apparently hangs by a slim thread.

I came into her room late Sunday evening, I surveyed the damage one pack rat can inflict on a living space, and I freaked out. When asked to clean up the most egregious piles of mess, my girl shrieked like a hyena and threw herself on the floor. This is the same child who told me crying on cue is her “special talent”. Help me.

Her screaming amped up my already fragile emotions, and I started grabbing everything I could get my hands on and throwing it into the center of the bedroom floor. It was like Oprah’s “You get a car and you get a car and you get a car”, except I yelled “You clean this up and you clean this up…” while flinging books, fake coins, and broken party favors around the room. I literally felt like some organizational demon possessed my body, while I threw the contents of every bag and basket (there were many) onto the floor of her bedroom an hour before bedtime. The poor child never stood a chance.

With all the screaming, flailing, and crashing about, my husband, the referee, came up to see about all the racket. He took one look at the heap of junk on the floor and the empty baskets and bins, and immediately walked downstairs for the label maker. It was the single most romantic gesture of our entire marriage. Now there is a man who understands his woman. This is the same man who cozied up into bed last night only to have me boot him out so I could “fix the sheets.” God forbid I should sleep on crooked sheets.

I’ve come to accept this about myself. I need clean, tidy spaces because my mind is one jumbled heap of crazy. Physical spaces are the liminal ones I pass through before I can enter my head space. My organizational fervor lends itself towards the writing life. Writing is a bit like straightening up a house after a hurricane hits. I gather all the thoughts and ideas and ramblings flung about the corners of my brain, and place them neatly into rows of words and sentences. I organize, I label, I find the very thought I searched for under piles of junk.

I wish I was a free spirit. For a long time, I believed this was the essence of an artist. Creativity came from chaos. I wish I could walk into a room and throw my handbag and my ideas down without a care, but I realize that my creativity comes by bringing order to the chaos. I tell myself I am no less a writer or an artist because I need my sheets and my sentences straight. And then I recall the mental picture of myself flinging toys around my daughter’s bedroom in a fit of madness, and I think, perhaps I’m a free spirit after all.