When I circumvent chaos, it can surround me but cannot have me.
The night that my mom filed for divorce, I called a friend and said, “You told me one time that your mom gives good advice and I need to talk to a real adult. Do you mind?”
She kindly listened to me talk and then she said,
“Listen; when everything is in chaos and when you yourself are in chaos and you don’t know what to do—you don’t have to do anything…
You don’t have to know anything, feel anything, ask anything, say anything, take a side, run over and rescue your parent—nothing. In fact, when you are in chaos and you start doing things, you are probably just going to make your situation worse in the long run. You will do things you wish you hadn’t.
So just let yourself be. Don’t do anything until you do know what you want to say, what you want to ask, or what you want to do.” At that time, you will no longer be in chaos; you will make better decisions and handle things as you are ready for them.”
This is the “do nothing until you are peaceful theory” of chaos management.
The night my parents actually got divorced, I demanded that my friend tell me what I needed to do (sometimes when I’m sobbing, I need to be given instructions like: Drink some water; take a shower; go to bed).
“Listen; you are going to go home and clean your bedroom. You are going to make sure that everything is put away nicely. You are going to put fresh sheets on your bed. When you wake up in the morning, your world is going to be in chaos but not completely. Your world will be in chaos but you will be in a peaceful, well-ordered space. Then, you will get up, make your bed, and go to work. Check in with me after work to tell me how the day went.”
I followed both of their directions exactly.
The morning after my parents divorced, I woke up in a beautiful bed, in a beautiful room. I felt like a princess—until the chaos hit me. But being in a peaceful, ordered space meant that someone had taken care of me and that I had taken care of myself. Though the chaos threatened to consume me, it could not. I had created peace in defiance of that yawning maw.
This is the “create peace in the midst of chaos theory” of chaos management.
And it’s true; this has been an emotionally chaotic summer for so very many reasons and the happiest day I have had is the day I spent cleaning out an office.
I don’t know why this family knows so much about chaos management; I don’t really want to know. I love them all too much to think that they have had to deal with much chaos even though I can see that they must have.
One distinction of my spirituality is the idea that everything is holy, both spiritual and material. It might be broken; it might be in need of healing. But the stuff of life, both seen and unseen, is good. The whole creation groans but it will be healed and restored.
In this idea, I see both the waiting for peace and the need to treat things that are material as if they are good. When I do that, when I circumvent chaos, it can surround me but cannot have me.
I need to clean my room again.
If my heart is wise, I will know that I’m doing much more than changing sheets and sweeping the floor. I am bringing order and peace to not just my physical space, but to my spirit.
As I wait for peace, I will create peace.
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Assistant Ed: Stephanie Sefton/Ed: Sara Crolick