By nature – for the most part, I am a tidy person. And that means I like to keep things where they are. I arrange things so that they do not look disorderly. I don’t remember where it started. But, before studying for exams – everything had to be perfect, like my table, books on the table, pencils sharpened etc. And even if one thing were off, I would throw up my hands.
It is good to keep things in order, but the minute you refuse to let things get untidy because you have to clean them later is when you stop living your life. In her book, ‘Bird by Bird’ Anne Lamott states that tidiness makes her think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing (or living my words) in general, needs to breathe and move. We are so busy trying to control life that we do not live. We are so busy ensuring that the books are arranged in a particular order that we forget we need to read them.
Why do we do that? Because we start to dread cleaning – we focus so much on cleaning that we don’t let things be dirty. This is a profound analogy to how we live our lives. At various points in our life, we have been hurt by something small like candy being taken away to being involved in an accident – but that messiness was so complex that we decided we would instead not let the mess happen than deal with it. On paper, that sounds like a perfect plan, but life is messy. Clutter will happen – so if that is the case, then what is the point of resisting the untidiness? Is it not better to work on the muscle to accept the unpredictability and deal with it instead of pushing it away so much that it explodes?
In that book, Anne also says, ‘ Awareness is learning to keep yourself company.’ And this is the simple truth. The messiness that I am talking about is not in the outside world. It is inside each of us. And we cannot deal with it or haven’t learnt how to deal with it. Like naive kids, we think that if we ignore it will go away. What do I mean by that?
Let’s say you have a thought in your head that goes like this – ‘I will never have enough money.’ or ‘I will never be successful in life,’ or ‘I will never get another job,’ or ‘I will never find the love of my life’. We all have similar thoughts, right? And most of us, when faced with such thoughts, try to find a solution to them, work hard, and convince ourselves that it is better if we don’t find the love of our life or immerse ourselves in alcohol or binge watch or binge eat or divert our mind. We will do anything but keep that thought company because it is too painful.
We grow up in the true sense when we can have these thoughts without being distracted. And not only that, we are at peace with them. And it starts by first hearing the thoughts – even if it is the awareness that you cannot even stand to have that thought.
How comfortable are you with messiness?