SOMETHING ABOUT NOTHING published the week of January 23 in the Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier Sentinel
I am not a neatnik; I am a messer, and I am not going to apologize for it anymore. It doesn’t mean I don’t clean up my messes, it means I don’t always clean up my messes when others think I should. There is a time and a season for everything and that can be said about messes too.
I am trying to simplify my life so I have more time to write and to enjoy my family and friends, and movies, and chocolate, and reading, and not feel guilty spending the time having fun and relaxing. Stuff does get in our way. Yet, that same stuff can bring us peace. Simplifying does not mean always being neat.
I called a friend in Nebraska this week. We hadn’t talked in a few months. I thought of her over the last few weeks and was going to place that call, but I got sidetracked and it never happened. It was one of those messes which reminded me of my friend. My mess was funeral cards. When I talked to my friend she too has been simplifying and mentioned how behind she was on her house because of taking care of family. I mentioned I was behind, too, for no good reason. She explained she knew my house wasn’t as bad as hers. Yes folks, we do the dueling houses; my house I know is worse than yours. I laughed and said, “Yes and do you remember the reason I thought to call you? I am going through funeral cards from when my mother died 14 years ago.”
Those long-kept funeral cards were a blessing. I pulled them out because I am purging and I wondered why I was keeping them. One of the blessings was a reminder to call my friend and the other — the realization that in my grief at my mother’s passing, and other things going on in my life at the time which added to the grief I was feeling, I didn’t take the time to absorb what others wrote in those cards. Fourteen years later I sat down and read every one and my heart was moved by what others said, and those that took the time to remember us. Some of those precious people are now no longer with us, and it made their words more meaningful as I remembered their friendship. That is where the thoughts of time and season come in. This was the perfect time and season in my life to read those cards.
Yes, I kept some still for when I want to remember and need some comfort when I think of my mother. No matter how old you are or how much time has passed you never quit missing your mother. I remember as my mom was in her last weeks and ill. She was smiling, and I asked what she was smiling about and she said, “I am going to see my mother and dad and brothers again.” It was a beautiful smile. She never quit missing her mother.
That is the part of the messy me, not always being able to let go of things that bring back memories. There is also the day-to-day messy me. It is hard for the person I live with to live with messy me. He is a neatnik and doesn’t have as many indoor hobbies as I do.
When I am immersed in the creative me, watch out. I may need a drink of water or a plate of food but don’t expect the dirty dishes to go anywhere beyond the top of the cupboard while I am creating. Don’t expect my shoes and socks to go anywhere except beside my chair. Don’t expect my paints to be put away one by one as I finish with each color. Don’t expect newspapers, books, appointment books, reference materials to be anywhere but scattered around me.
When I am in full creative mode I don’t hear anyone, and I don’t take the time to open the dishwasher, go to the clothes hamper, watch any food that is cooking or sweep the floor. It disrupts my chain of thought especially if I am writing, and it isn’t easy to get the flow of words back. I am in the groove so don’t expect me to carry that plastic water bottle all the way to the basement stairway for recycling. Don’t expect me to be neat when I am splashing paint or creating something out of nothing. I absolutely cannot work in a neat restricted environment. I work better in disarray. I find things better when my materials are spread out and tossed around me. And I drive my husband crazy because of it.
I’ve tried to be this neat person, and it is agonizing. It stifles me. I do the same thing when baking and cooking. You will see flour all over me, the kitchen counters and occasionally all over the floor. But I have fun.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to sit back when I am relaxing in a cozy, soft, neat environment, and I do, after all the creative craziness has passed. I clean up the countertops, sweep the floors, light my candles, make peace in my environment and relax. My house is either one or the other. There is no in-between. I haven’t found the balance. Maybe I don’t want to. There is a time and place for my creative clutter and there is a time for neat and tidy.
“I like messy. What fun is tidy?” — Dasha Zhukova