“In chaos, there is fertility.” ~Anais Nin
I am someone who strives to maintain some sense of control amid chaos. One way I do that is by obsessively organizing my space.
For example, there can only be four pairs of shoes left by the downstairs door, in a place where exactly four fit—and they need to be lined up neatly to look like tiny foot soldiers, standing at attention.
During my third day recovering from surgery last week, while I lowered myself in a squat to pick up a fifth pair that didn’t belong, my mother reminded me how I can be obsessively neat and suggested I let things go.
At first this seemed as impossible as asking me to walk backwards on my hands. Letting things be felt completely unnatural.
Then something happened. The other day I looked down at my coffee table, with Starburst wrappers, magazines, and take-out containers scattered across the surface, and suddenly I felt relaxed.
My space felt far more lived in; and I felt far more comfortable when I consciously chose not to be distracted by the imperfections. Instead of being things that didn’t belong, they were things that belonged for now.
It wasn’t about consenting to be a messier person; it was about learning to relax into the messiness for a while, and knowing eventually, when the time was right, it would be clean.
Isn’t that how it so often works in life? We need to get messy in our creative processes before eventually sculpting something polished. We need to get messy in exploring problems in relationships or at work to eventually find solutions.
And we need to feel comfortable in that messiness, or else we’ll be tempted to try to control the chaos—the contain it, simplify it, or maybe even run from it.
But the chaos is often where we make our greatest discoveries. It’s where we really come alive, if we’re willing to lean into it.
This week I’m doing far less than usual, but I suspect on some levels, I’m actually doing more. I’m learning to relax, focus, and create without needing a rigid control over everything around me.
Life is chaos. Our job isn’t to create perfect order. It’s to explore, create, expand, and evolve within the inevitable disorder.
Photo by h.koppdelaney