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January 12, 2015

How to Catch the Chaos.

I have a problem.

Being human, I have more than one, obviously – but I have one I’ve been noticing daily. Even hourly.

I’m getting in my own way.

It’s as though my second self, a messy, slobbish procrastinator, has taken up residence in my house alongside me. She avoids doing the dishes. She kicks aside piles of laundry. She scribbles her homework at the last minute. She avoids lacing up her running shoes and prefers to gaze mindlessly at Netflix. Frankly, she is a huge pain in my ass, and I’ve had enough.

Getting sober from alcohol almost a year ago and clearing most of the disastrous chaos from my life has been monumental, freeing. I’ve discovered I love a drama-free, simple, lovely life.

I enjoy calm, organization, routines.

I love sipping my morning coffee and indulging in a few pages from my latest read before I embrace the day. I revel in my evening chats with Liam, putting aside everything to fully enjoy his presence while we eat supper and connect. I thrive on going to college, arriving at class early and prepared.

A life-long addiction to chaos is harder to break than I thought, though, and my addict self seems to be subtly striking out at me, preventing me from doing the necessary tasks that keep my life flowing.

All our self-help chatter seems to tell us that acknowledgement of the problem is the first step in dealing with it. So, lazy chaos-loving self, I acknowledge a piece of you still resides in me. Maybe you’ll always be there. But I’ll be damned if you’re going to keep getting in my way. I’ll indulge you by making a mess doing artwork, by cooking without a recipe, by singing out loud even though I don’t quite know the words. By getting my hands dirty in a garden.

But the habits that are hurting me? The avoidance? The procrastination? The leaving-a-mess-even-though-I-hate-messes behaviour? I’m looking right at you.

I’m staring you down.

I’m not letting you take over. I know, all too well, how one thing leads to another. One dish becomes a sinkful, one homework assignment becomes three, one day of things left undone leads to weeks. One pint turns to twelve.

When days were almost unbearably hard to get through in the beginning of sobriety, when life was measured breath to breath (and each one hurt and overwhelmed) I gently used to remind myself that all I had to do was get through the next ten steps. To simply do the next right thing. Whether it meant drinking a glass of water, brushing my hair, taking out the garbage, it was simply ten more steps. Anyone can tackle one thing, I felt. Even me.

Perhaps that practice needs to be rekindled. What is the next right action? What is the one simple thing I can do next that is a forward step – not a slipslide into chaos? Maybe, in living my brilliant, full life, I’ve neglected to pay attention to the simple tasks that keep my life afloat.

So, instead of being frozen  in place by the culminating tiny disasters I am letting pile up, I am making the next move a good one. I endeavour to treat all things in my life – my house, my body, my fridge, my laundry – with value and respect, as I would a dear friend.

I carry my empty cup to the sink and wash it with gratitude. It may sound silly, but I think the next right thing is that simple. I think the nasty problem that’s been sneaking up on me can be tackled by the next ten steps.

And the ten steps after that.

“We could learn to stop when the sun goes down and when the sun comes up. We could learn to listen to the wind; we could learn to notice that it’s raining or snowing or hailing or calm. We could reconnect with the weather that is ourselves, and we could realize that it’s sad. The sadder it is, and the vaster it is, the more our heart opens. We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea.”   ~ Pema Chodron

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Author: Keeley Milne

Photo: Flickr

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