I spent some time (the operative word is some) cleaning the house today. I’m certainly not the housefrau I once was, back in the day when I was on a strict cleaning schedule modeled pretty literally on the old nursery rhyme – wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday…(do children even learn this anymore? I rather doubt it). Anyway, today I did my desultory once around the rooms, gathering up the week’s clutter, vacuuming the floors, dusting the tabletops, and washing the soap scum out of the bathroom sink.
As I worked, I realized just how much I crave things to be neat, to have all the loose ends of life settled away and tied up with a big bow. I also realized that this desire is virtually impossible to achieve – hence much of my frustration and worry and generalized anxiety about life in general and my own in particular. If organizing my life could only be as simple as putting my sock drawer in order! Of course it isn’t – yet I seem to feel that not only is it possible to do so, but that I should be able to accomplish it all on my own. I want to settle all our financial worries, figure out what my next job should be, manage my whole family’s health concerns, and plan my retirement. And I want to do that now, please. Let’s get it all decided and written in stone while we’re at it.
Generally I can manage this condition of mine without undue distress – as long as life is moving along in at least a semi-normal pattern. However, we all know life doesn’t conform to pattern for very long at a time. “Life’s all about change” – that’s my mother’s favorite saying, and it comes with a rueful tone to her voice that I’ve come to know all too well over the past few years.
I wish I could be one of those people who revel in changes, who embrace the new and different, who look for opportunity on the other side of every closed door. For me, change is too messy, it clutters up the neatly ordered corners of my life.
It creates too many loose ends.
The biggest problem with loose ends is that they’re frightening – they come surrounded by a huge unknown which is fraught with the possibility of disaster. So if I keep the loose ends neatly sorted and tied, keep change at bay, then I might be safe for a little while.
Then earlier this evening I read this quote, and it sparked some new and interesting thoughts:
“When you try to put your life in a box and keep it the same all the time, you’re making something dead out of it,” writes Joan Borysenko, PhD, in her book Saying Yes to Change. “When change happens, say yes to it, learn and grow from it.”
Suddenly, the image of life being sealed shut in a huge steel casket popped into my mind. Is my need for order and safety actually preventing me from the joy of new, fulfilling experiences or relationships? Is my compulsive need to maintain the status quo closing the door on new opportunity?
Those are momentous and rather messy thoughts. Perhaps rather than try to clean them all up, I’ll just let them lie around on the table for a while where I can ponder them.
While I’m at it, I’ll try to muster up the courage to say “yes” to some of the changes coming down the pike.
How about you? What’s your relationship to change? Do you like the loose ends of life all neatly tied up, or are you willing to let them fly free?