Funny story: When I was in graduate school, my apartment was usually a total mess. I was so busy, in school full-time, a 20-hour a week graduate assistantship, and a 40-hour a week graveyard shift at an answering service. I also had a social life. No time for sleep (unless I catnapped on the job) and certainly no time for cleaning. From the day I had my first apartment after college, my mother admonished me to keep it clean, claiming that people would judge her harshly by my slovenly ways. I told her she was crazy, no one would think badly of her mothering based on my apartment. So, my grad school friend, Todd, decided to visit my parent’s home with me one weekend. As we were driving back to the university, Todd told me had a “surprisingly good time” at my parent’s. I asked why “surprisingly”. His answer was, “Well, judging by how dirty your apartment is, I wasn’t sure what to expect from your mom’s house. But it was really clean and nice!”
I was wrong, Mom, and you were right.
Flash forward many years, to today. I live in a cute little bungalow. I love this little house, and I especially love it when it is clean and shiny. Which, with the exception of my craft room, it often has been. But for the past month, it has been, well, kind of a crap hole. I mean, literally, there is stuff (crap) everywhere. Nothing is put away in its place – and the thing about small homes is that everything needs to have a place and be in it for one to feel comfortable and uncluttered.
Now that I’ve described the sichy-a-shun, I want to explain why it is this way. Put succinctly: my life and my head are exploding!
The Explosion I Call My life
I’m an introvert, which means that I need a certain amount of alone time to recharge my energy. For much of my life, I thought this also meant that I needed to keep people at arm’s length, to control the degree to which they accessed my inner (as opposed to public) self. Now, I realize that even introverts may want/need depth of relationship with others. And I have been blessed with an abundance of wonderful, interesting, soul-nurturing relationships. Which, in turn, require a certain amount of time and presence. I don’t regret this, because I am learning that the more people I invite into my life the more interesting and uplifting that life becomes. However, I’m not very good at managing it yet – at being open, being present, managing my down time such that I accomplish mundane tasks.
Added to the increase in the number and depth of relationships in my life, is the sheer amount of traveling I have done in the months of March and now April. Not world travel, mind you. But I have spent weekends in Omaha, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and (soon) Chicago. Now, for some people, this would not seem particularly difficult, but my life isn’t arranged for frequent travel. And while each trip was definitely worth the expenditure of time, they took up all my weekends…and I still needed to be at work during the weeks.
The explosion I call my head:
Simply stated, the people and travel in my life have generated some serious brain traffic. Three of the weekends in these two months included deeply thought-provoking content: what is the meaning and expression of mercy? how can we create a sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling environment? how can those in my profession educate for lives of purpose? One outcome of my trip to a conference in Philly is that I’ve gotten back on twitter, where I am plugged in to many sources of information, professional and personally relevant, I would otherwise not be exposed to. I cannot keep up with all the ideas, all the creative pursuits, all the information. I am not focused. When I am able to have some down/alone time, I cannot seem to leave my computer. For the first time ever, I’m taking advantage of free wifi all over town!
Solutions: Containment or Release?
I’m a big fan of thinking up dichotomous solutions. Either this or that. Try to contain the explosion or just let it happen and go with it. In real life, though, the answers to most troubling conundrums are shaded and multifaceted. I can’t and don’t want to practice containment in my life, relationships, ideas. I also don’t want to find myself in a million pieces flying in different directions, so scratch the release concept as well.
So here’s what I’m doing today. I’m taking time to reflect, albeit on-line in this blog entry. Next, I’m going to renew an acquaintance and make some new ones this afternoon by attending a barrel racing competition at the community college equestrian center (a place and activity I’ve never experienced). After that, we’ll see. How did I choose where to place my energy this morning and for the afternoon? I asked myself what I would regret most: not writing or not cleaning? not meeting up with Jeff and Jennie to see them race or not cleaning? Perhaps this isn’t the best way to decide, in the long run. (I don’t want to end up on an episode of “Hoarders”, after all), But for now…let me just state for the record that my mother keeps a lovely, clean house!