Jenion, the Many-Handed: Chaos, Time and Change

Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on. — Buddha
Chaos breeds life, when order breeds habit. — Henry Adams
When tempest tossed, embrace chaos. — Dean Koontz

My house is a shambles. Three times last night I either tripped or stubbed a toe on something that didn’t used to be where it currently is. Junk proliferates, and my vision of orderly packed boxes and neat piles of “to donate”, “to friends”, and “to the dumpster” dissipates. Just being with, and among, this chaos exhausts me before I even begin to work at bringing some order to it in the few hours I’m snatching back from the dinners and coffees that we’re cramming into these “last days”.

Two nights ago, I sat in my living room maniacally sorting through thousands of buttons – feeling like Nero, fiddling while Rome burned.

And that is just on the level of “what am I doing with all my stuff?!” The chaos is threatening to overwhelm me on an emotional level, too. After nineteen years in the same job, seventeen of which have been as a “live in”/”live on” staff member, the process of separation is really strange. For example, I had no trouble parting with files and piles of paper in my office. One day of concerted effort filled both the document destruction bin and several recycling receptacles. On the other hand, I’ve been slow to complete the work that needs doing before I leave – a pared down list of “final” things. Then there’s the commemoration of my longevity and the celebration of my impact on the campus which is sweet, poignant, and at times a little like listening to myself being eulogized. When it feels too surreal, I have to go walkabout – lots of extra visits to the chapel and the coffee shop in order to maintain emotional equilibrium.

In addition to kind words and amazing memories, I routinely get one or the other of these comments: “I’m so jealous” or “Congratulations on your retirement.” Both feel completely understandable while, at the same time, leaving me at a loss for what might be both an appropriate and kind response. By my calculations, and with what all of the prognosticators say about the increasing retirement age, I have a full two decades of work left. So I laugh (if with a slight hysteria) at the retirement comments.

The comments about jealousy are harder. It doesn’t feel like this place I’m in is a somewhere others want to be – uncertain, unknown, unplanned. Frankly, those who are most emphatic about their jealousy are in the best positions to be here without the narrow financial margin I’ll be balancing upon, which makes it incredibly difficult not to call them out – tell them they CAN be here, they just don’t choose to be. On the other hand, I understand their comments – it has been freeing in a manner I can’t describe to have put an end date on this particular stage of my life.

On the other hand…I find myself wanting to use this phrase to begin most sentences these days. The current level of chaos in my life lends itself to so many possibilities, I picture myself looking like one of the many-handed Hindu deities. On one hand, this. On the other hand, that. And on the other, other hand, something entirely different. Interestingly, Kali, the goddess whose name came up when I googled ‘many-handed Hindu deities’ is the goddess of Time and Change. Time feels in short supply right now, while I have a bumper crop of change to manage. And the only way I know how to do that is to lean into it, to borrow a recently popular term.

Leaning in to change, to chaos, can be both a daunting and an empowering experience. Some people have lauded my courage in taking this leap of faith – I feel less courageous and more like I’m whistling in the dark, hence “daunting”. But I do feel empowered, as well. For maybe the first time in my life the choices I am making are not being made out of fear or a need to control things in order to feel safe. I don’t feel safe. But I do feel right, somehow, as if this is the right thing to do at the right time to do it. Which lends a certain peace to the chaos that is my life right now – like the calm in the eye of a tornado or hurricane. The maelstrom is happening, and sometimes I’m whirled up in it and trying to relax enough not to be hurt by the buffeting. But in other moments, I experience the “rightness” at the center. And that feels empowering.

We live in a rainbow of chaos. — Paul Cezanne

5 thoughts on “Jenion, the Many-Handed: Chaos, Time and Change

  1. Love you Jen~

    I am standing with you in the knowing at your center that your move is “right”
    Can’t wait to see where your “empowered self” lands…it will be perfect!

    You are one of the few who has the courage to leap…knowing and trusting that the net is always there. Who knows…you may land on one net and then bounce into another…what FUN!

    As you know so well…your attitude will color your reality.

    Thank you for sharing ALL the emotions that accompany change. Can’t wait to hear more of your journey!


    1. Mary Beth – your support and encouragement have been a tremendous gift to me these last few years! I will miss you and Kylie, but am so happy for all of us as we keep moving forward with our lives. I will keep my glass pig, wings outstretched, close as a reminder to keep going for things, even if they seem impossible!

  2. Pliny the Elder is believed to have stated that “true glory consists of doing what deserves to be written, in writing what deserves to be read”. I keep coming back to this when I think of your impending situation Jen. I suppose partly because the main way I keep up w/ your life is through your writings. I just want to read that you are doing good/interesting/fun/important/fulfilling things. That way I know you are doing good. Not that I have much doubt that you’ll be fine. You are probably the smartest woman I have ever known (and that is saying A LOT as I’ve been blessed to know a good number of intelligent women). What you have been doing for the last 19 years has been glorious and deserved to be written about. And it was, in text messages, instant messages, journals, incident reports, blogs, tweets, facebook posts, and in the hearts and consciences of those people whose life you’ve impacted. Mine included. So, yeah, keep living a life worth writing about. 🙂

    I also cant help but notice a similar parallel to your transition to that of a lot of college graduates who don’t really know what is next. A move here, a job there, decisions, decisions, decisions. I’ve often joked that “Man plans and God laughs”. So while there is a fair about of uncertainty where are, our lives paths are not always clear to us. Even for those who are in a “secure place”. So I guess while you are leaning in to the changes that are swirling around you, don’t forget to lean on the Everlasting Arms too.

    A pastor I once had ended each sermon with a few verses from Numbers 6: 24-26(really, who quotes from Numbers?) saying: The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace. Be blessed in your new adventure(s) and keep on rockin’ in the free world!

    1. Jason, always the thoughtful and introspective one 🙂 I thank you for every kind word – I hope you know how much I’ve always loved and respected you – even if we were arguing or you were trouncing me in Axis and Allies!

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