Clutter. It is my mortal enemy, and yet it seems to creep back into even the most organized of our lives, doesn’t it?
I try to wipe down the countertops every night, clearing them to at least trick my brain into believing that I have some sort of control over the chaos that is currently living with two littles. It works, until I have to find something in the bottom of a junk drawer and I come to face to face with all of the crap I have thrown there over the past several months. This always summons the purge.
In our house, about twice a year each spring and fall, I get rid of outgrown toys, clothes, knickknacks, and books. I always despise this task, and jot it reluctantly on my to-do list. I glare at it with disdain for a few days as I contemplate just burning the down the house and starting over. But honestly, when it is done, I feel such a peace come over me.
So much of life is out of our control. We can take steps to stave off disease, protect our kids, and nurture our relationships. We can strive to obtain good grades, help others, get decent jobs, and carve out a life that we can be proud of. But the honest to goodness truth is this: No matter how hard our efforts, we only get so far without a bit of good luck and the right circumstances to help push us along. No matter what we try to trick ourselves into believing, some things are just beyond our control. We maintain our power in these uncontrollable circumstances by how we choose to approach and respond to these ungovernable events. Change is the basis of life, as I mused about in my previous article, Perspective on Change. Even those comfortable with change will concur that really big changes will test our patience, resolve, and sanity. These wild events will usually also help to shape our characters, beliefs, and our resiliency.
When bad things happen to people we don’t know, it is in our human nature to look for ways that they could be at fault; they must have done something wrong or been foolish in some way for something so awful to occur. Often they have made a mistake, but just as often, they are the recipient of bad luck or their environment. No less likely to go through this experience than you, they just won the bad luck lottery in their situation. This is far too much for the average brain to handle, and so we subconsciously attempt to make them different or worse in some way, in a feeble attempt to regain control and make sense of a chaotic and topsy-turvy world.
In contrast, when bad things happen to people we know and love, we feel empathy and sadness. Life is so unfair! How could this happen to my loved one?! In reality horrible things (often FAR worse) are happening to others with the same or greater consistency. We really, really don’t like to admit that we simply cannot control everything.
I am no exception to this rule. I relish control. I always will. When someone else is driving, I grip the passenger door handle tightly, both literally and figuratively. I know how absurd the expectation of perfection is while trying to raise two healthy boys, working full time, et cetera et cetera. Trying to control everything is simply futile. And yet, still I try. I will always try to wipe down my countertops. I’ll take what I can get, and will keep working at letting go of what will not be mine to determine.