Controlled Chaos

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The other day in a comment to another blogger, I said something on the order of how I think life is cyclical.  We go from the intuitive state of children to the increasingly rational world of the adult and then, as we retire and age (or age and retire, depending on how anxious we are to do so) and get on to the next stage, we start evolving back into the state we were in as children.  We perhaps start to forget details of the present in favor of remembering vividly details of our past. Our present seems to fall into an increasing sense of disorder as our past comes back with a strange clarity.  In the farther stages of dementia, this seems to be true as well.

Judging by the fragmented comments made by my sister who is experiencing the journey of Alzheimer’s, she seems to be going backwards through her life.  In her mind, she was for awhile once again married to a husband from whom she had been divorced for twenty-five years.  A year later, she was talking about her high school boyfriend as though he was waiting for her; and this year, when given a baby doll, she sat rocking it and calling it Judy.  Eleven years older than me, I’m sure she was remembering me as a baby.  More proof of my theory, because she has had three children and five grandchildren since she rocked me in that long-ago rocking chair, most of whom she doesn’t remember.

All of this speculating is a roundabout method of preparing you for what I really want to talk about, and that is the topic of “chaos.”  As we age, our rational mind seems to give way to intuition–forgetting details like what we are driving to town to do or what we came from the bedroom to the living room to find. Instead, we wander from task to task as we get distracted by whatever our eye falls upon, much as we did as children.

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In a similar fashion,  objects collect on the table-like headboard of my bed and on my night tables. Have you ever seen the room of  a teenager?  A perfect example of chaos.  Dirty clothes and caked ice cream dishes are swept under the bed, dirty clothes are in piles mixed in with the clean ones delivered by mom a week earlier, magazines, electrical equipment, soccer balls and school books all seem to be placed in the same category and spread evenly over the surfaces of the room.

The bedroom or playroom of a toddler or child seems to follow the same organizational plan:  Leggos, the detached limbs of G.I. Joes or Barbies, coloring books, plastic kid-sized furniture, trikes, blocks, kiddie computer games, unmatched socks, clothes outgrown months ago, plastic trucks and assorted game pieces from kiddie games cover the floor as though organized by a tornado into the perfect organizational plan of a child: chaos.

So it was in the house of my oldest sister.  Every year, more piles appeared in her bedroom.  Her kitchen drawers were a jumble of knives, jewelry, old electrical receipts, diamond rings, half full medicine bottles, plastic lids to butter tubs, photographs, drawings her children had done twenty years before, unused postal stamps and corroded batteries.

When I visited a few months before she went into a managed care facility, hoping  I could facilitate her staying in her house for at least another year, I reorganized her house–– putting labels on all her drawers.  In the bedroom, I sorted out a tangle of necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets.  In doing so,  I discovered  23 watches–all dysfunctional.

“Betty, why do you have so many watches?”

“Oh, they all stopped working.”

“Did you exchange the batteries?”

“Oh, you can do that?”

Now I look at the boxes of slides and photos of the art work of my husband and me–sorted and condensed from four boxes  into two boxes, then abandoned unfinished when I needed to use the dining room table to entertain guests. Now the unresolved mess resides between the bed and the closet in my bedroom. Sigh.

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There are junk drawers I’ve been shoving things into for 15 years thinking one day I’ll sort them.  Boxes of miscellaneous papers I packed up 15 years ago to bring to Mexico still sit untouched in my garage.

Like the rest of the universe, having come from the chaos of childhood, I seem to be returning to it and I wonder what the solution will be.  Perhaps, as many of my friends have, I will start shedding the accumulations of a lifetime and simplify my life so there is less in it to be transformed into chaos.  Or, perhaps as has been my pattern for the past 15 years, since divesting myself of most of my possessions to move to Mexico, I will continue to collect thousands of little items for my art collages, dozens of bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings–even though I wear only a few favorites.

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Perhaps I’ll continue to buy the books of friends, the paintings of talented Mexican artists, huipiles from the market, woven purses and alebrijes from beach vendors, gelato makers from the garage sales of friends.

I have a special fondness for one basket vendor who sells the lovely baskets made by his family in Guerrero. I have them in every shape–square, obelisk, round, rectangular–as well as every size from coin purse to three feet tall.  Yet I keep buying them because I admire his perseverance.  For the fifteen years I’ve been here, he has traversed the carretera from Chapala to Jocotepec, laden front, back and to each side with these baskets.  He wears five straw hats piled neatly one on top of the other on his head.  Baskets nest within other baskets or are threaded onto a long cord and worn diagonally over his chest.

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He is a a master of organization–and to query about any basket as one sits at at table in the Ajijic plaza  will invite his ceremony as he divests himself of baskets to display them.  Soon the floor around your table will be covered in so many baskets it seems impossible that one man has been carrying them up and down the ten miles between the towns on this side of the lake–all day and for years long before I moved here.  His is an incredible sense of organization that is the opposite of chaos, and in admiration, if I am unable to persuade visiting friends to buy his baskets, I always buy something myself.

Back home, I fill one with outgrown underwear, another with scarves, another with old keys and padlocks I may one day need.  It is as though his organization rubs off on me as I fill baskets, instilling some order into a life potentially chaotic–but at the moment held within the confines of normalcy.

Ten years ago, my other sister opened my junk drawer in my kitchen and declared, “There is no excuse for anyone to have a drawer like this.”  Because I know of no one who does not have a drawer like that, I was somewhat surprised, and was especially surprised because before her visit I had more or less organized my junk drawer.

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But now I look around and realize I have a number of those drawers.  In spite of the basket vendor’s good example, my sense or organization seems to be veering toward having a special drawer to thrust categories of things into: batteries, items of clothing, kitchen tools, jewelry.  Controlled chaos––the way of the universe and certainly the seeming course of our lives. For some of us, at least.

(If you are dying to make out exactly what is in these drawers, clicking on the photos will enlarge your view.  Snoopy!)

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/chaos/

19 thoughts on “Controlled Chaos

  1. Marilyn Armstrong

    I tried rationality. I tried logic, reason, commonsense. They seemed like a good idea at the time, but ultimately, they really don’t work. Life isn’t rational, logical, reasonable, or sensible. So now, I just go with the flow. Chaos is really our natural state before “adulthood” imposes an artificial order.

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  2. hirundine608

    I was once scolded by my art school teacher, for cleaning up the studio. She said, that a messy work environment was the sign of a successful artist. That too much time was wasted cleaning when it could have been used for production.

    Now there’s a strange rationale to all that. … Just saying! Cheers Jamie

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      I absolutely agree, but when the disorder gets to the point where I can’t find what I need to work with or don’t have enough surfaces for the pieces I’m working on, it is time to spend a few days cleaning.

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  3. Dreamer of Dreams

    I adore your “chaos” (seems pretty organized to me!) and your vivid photographs. And I was deeply, deeply moved by this post. You write with insight and love, and your diction is, as always, flawless. It’s always a pleasure to read what you write. Of late, I’ve not been visiting everyone as much as I would like – even just writing my one or two posts or poems a day is an achievement. I’ll try to do better. I think (and I may have said this before) that you reign supreme among all the bloggers whose work I’ve read.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Aw. So sweet. Generous comments like yours certainly do keep my nose to the grindstone on those mornings I consider just for a moment not posting! To help salve your conscience, I’ll say that there are times when I don’t have time to read all the blogs I want to, either. Life intervenes, and if it comes to choosing between writing and reading, I always choose the writing.

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        1. lifelessons Post author

          I constantly feel a sense of time running out. That’s what started me writing every day a few years ago and now I’m addicted. I’ve always had the sense that life is too precious to waste, but then I read Kurt Vonnegut’s statement, “We are put on earth to fart around,” and I love it, too. I guess a balance is good. Have a cause and pursuits you believe in, but take time to fart around and just enjoy yourself as well.

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  4. Patti

    I can’t believe I was that rude. My apologies. Considering how much time you spent trying to keep Dad’s medicine cabinet organized, do you think he’s paying you back from the other side by organizing your life? Sweet revenge!

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      I tried to change it but is seems WP no longer lets us edit comments of those commenting on our blogs. I think life is the thing that brings revenge. Betty and Grandma’s influences are always with me. I need a countering influence, so perhaps you are it!

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  5. Mark Aldrich

    Yes, our timing has brought our responses (mine a rerun: https://thegadabouttown.com/2016/05/09/captain-chaos/) next to one another. Your post made me think about my real life here:

    We have inherited, my girlfriend and I, a house in which the chaos was barely kept at bay for two decades; the house was clean, mind you. It was livable and lived-in: I lived with Jen’s dad (who died in Feb) for almost two years here and it was a livable, comfortable house. But now the act of moving piles of stuff is not the act of moving a person’s ignored mail from one place (the “To Be Ignored” pile) to another (“Already ignored”) to the annoyance of the person whose stuff you are displacing; it is no one’s mail now. He kept clutter at bay, but that was the extent of it and he even had a joke about it: “I don’t clean, I renovate.”

    Jen has remodeled the place, and only with new lamps and the addition of clean drapes, so far. A magician who has transubstantiated a house into a home. Her dad’s mail continues to come in, though, and now we have our own “To Be Ignored” and “Already Ignored” piles. But our “Already Ignored” pile gets thrown out. His pile stayed here and weighed him down.

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  6. Christine Goodnough

    Your post sounds too much like the way I’ve done things. I actually got inspired and tossed half my stored collection of pens & pencils that once still worked okay. 😉
    Storing things worked as long as I was well and could tell myself “I’ll take care of it later.” When I started dealing with my illness, however, I faced the thought that “Later” I may feel even worse. And now I’m feeling suffocated by all the stuff I no longer have the energy to deal with.
    Cycles of life, as you say. I wondered why my mother-in-law couldn’t deal with some of her collected stuff before we moved her. Now I’m picturing my daughter having to face my even bigger collection. 🙂

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      I love your line “I actually got inspired and tossed half my stored collection of pens & pencils that once still worked okay.”–Ha. Thereby proving that our memories instill a value to things not necessarily borne out by reality.

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  7. helen meikle's scribblefest

    Definitely the sense of time running out, I think! Better to do stuff we enjoy while we still have the chance, than spend the time living up to some spurious notion of housewifely ‘image’, particularly irrelevant when you live alone! Too much chaos irritates me, at which point I reduce it, but other than that… I don’t even cook, if I can help it. Waste of precious time and effort!

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  8. carol1945

    I was scrolling through your topics and I picked Alzheimers. Oh my, it is scary to read about your sister. I find myself wanting to control the chaos by simplifying. So, my kitchen drawer instead of having the jumble of 3 different garlic presses, each touting to be better than the other, and odd kitchen implements whose use is unknown but arrived as stocking stuffers from well meaning family, well, all that is gone. I now have only about seven items in that drawer, all items that I use every day. I put the other items in a box in my garage, and if the need comes up for a melon baller, well, I can go down and get it. (if I remember I even have it) If my garlic press breaks, I can retrieve one of the other ones. Until I read your post however, I had not realized what I was doing. I am FIGHTING the confusion that is starting to come. I hope it is not Alzheimers but normal aging. Regardless, it is scary.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      I am going through exactly the same process, Carol. Especially confusing for me are papers. But, kitchen drawers drive me crazy as well. I’m going to follow your example.

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