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When I used to consume alcohol and drugs, everything in my life was messy.
My bedroom was messy. My refrigerator was messy. My bathroom was messy. My laundry was messy. My car was messy. My relationships were messy. My legal situation was messy. My finances were messy. My friendships were messy. My mind was messy. My body was messy. If I got involved, it would be messy.
This began to change when I got clean and sober in 1989. I craved structure. I ached for self-discipline. I was desperate for control. After a few years of recovery, most of the list above shifted from messy to somewhere in the “normal” range, whatever that means.
The next step in my journey toward organization shifted farther and farther in the direction of control, possibly obsession. Everything in my home and car was neat, clean, and exactly where I expected them to be. Friends started making jokes that my home resembled more of a museum or hospital than a person’s place of residence. At first, I thought that was a compliment. They helped me with that misconception.
My diet was somewhere between vegetarian and vegan for about 15 years. I did not consume refined sugar, chips, salsa, or soda, on top of the fact that I cut out caffeine a decade before. I had a disciplined diet. I meditated at least twice a day for a minimum of an hour. I chose not to own a car and rode my bike everywhere, even in the cold and snow of Madison, Wisconsin. There was even a chunk of time when I went without music, TV, and movies.
I invite you to do so now if you’re not smirking or rolling your eyes yet.
I became increasingly tightly wound in this overly disciplined and structured life. Something had to give. I set the intention to create more wiggle room and space in my life for both spontaneity and mess. People laugh or look at me curiously when I speak about wanting to create mess in my life. Many people confuse mess and drama as the same.
My home is still pretty neat and clean, certainly not perfect like it was a decade ago, but anybody who comes inside is immediately aware that no small children live here. I eat some form of sugar every day. Most of the time, it’s coffee ice cream; other times, it’s Tates Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies; I also enjoy pumpkin, apple, peach, and blueberry pies. I have chips and salsa a couple of times a week and, every now and then, potato chips. Sometimes dinner is roasted potatoes and salad.
I have designated my desk, back seat, and car trunk as areas I rarely clean or organize. They never look like a hurricane hit them, but they are clearly different from my other spaces. This is done by intention. Somehow along the way, I convinced myself that being “spiritual” meant being perfect. Yup, feel free to laugh. My spiritual, mental, and emotional development and growth have included being human. It turns out I’m a human being, therefore, should act like one.
So I’m sitting here at my desk, seeing stuff piled on top of my printer, a pile of cords just left of my feet, and folders waiting for a home somewhere. This feels right to me. Some of my relationships today are messy. Okay, most of them are messy. I am grateful for those messy relationships. They remind me I am alive and engaged in the world and with the people I love!
In case you’re wondering, I still have daily morning practices, some combination of meditation, Reiki, yoga, and dance/movement.
Two weeks ago, I picked up a Dutch apple pie at a local farm store to bring to a potluck event in western Massachusetts. While cruising along Route 90 W., one of the cars in front of me appeared to forget that other cars were on the road and randomly switched three lanes. I was in one of those lanes and braked aggressively, and the Dutch apple pie flew from the backseat to the back seat floor. It has been over two weeks, and I haven’t remembered getting the crumbs off the floor. When I see them, I smile. I will clean them sometime in the next few days. The weather is getting warmer, and soon the ants will set up camp in my car if I don’t.
Today, I feel safe and comfortable enough to enjoy and embrace clean, neat, and messy simultaneously.
Part of that is keeping my desk and car messy.
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