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Friday, June 3, 2011

From the Edge of Order to the Pit of Chaos?

Life is full of paradoxes.  I’ve been a little MIA due to a family emergency lately.  Don’t worry, the kiddos are all healthy.  Now.  We did have a tummy thing moving through our ranks at the same time this other thing was going on.

My Mom was very sick.  After 1-1/2 weeks in the hospital, surgery, and a myriad of tests, she is finally back home and on the mend.  I won’t go into details here, but we were very worried we might lose her.  And thankful that we live a couple of hours away, now, so I was able to go be with her for a large chunk of that time.

I’m especially thankful to my hubby, who insisted that I go away and leave him home alone with our four kiddos for 5 whole days.  The hospital would not allow the kiddos, because we all know that kiddos are collectors of germs and everything else nasty, right?  It’s hard to live with the rules sometimes. 

They all survived, with a little a lot of patience and help from hubby’s parents.  Thank you, Grandma Carol and Grandpa Jim!

I was just sitting here reflecting on this whole experience.  My life tends to be a bit chaotic.  Cracker crumbs and playdough underfoot.  High-pitched screams in my ear.  Out of toilet paper, again?  Didn’t I just buy some?  What’s for dinner?  Spaghetti, again?!  The laundry monster that simply won’t be tamed no matter how many loads I do.

Some of that’s due to poor planning on my part, and this is something I work on.  Some of it’s due to the best-laid plans going awry because, let’s face it, life happens in, around, over, and throughout everything, no matter what we have planned.

Take this year’s veggie garden.  I got my seeds started, finally. And they grew.  And then it rained.  And rained some more.  Ground started to dry out some so maybe I could plant outside in another day.  But then it rained again.  And again.

We went through this for weeks.  My seedlings were getting that tell-tale spindly, been-in-the-house-too-long look.  And the cukes were climbing the blinds.  Yeah, I don’t normally start cukes inside, either, but the weather had been so weird I despaired of the seeds just washing away or being killed by frost before they got off to a good start outside, so I was hoping to give them a head-start. 

So last week, I got my beds prepared one morning, planning to plop them in that afternoon.  And it poured again.  And the next morning I was driving away to be with my Mom.

While I was gone, my big-hearted MIL planted the plants that looked like they might possibly survive (after disentangling the cukes from the blinds).  Maybe we’ll have tomatoes and cukes this summer after all.

Why am I telling you all this?

Life is a struggle.  I know we tend to want smooth, easy days without fights or worries.  But life is a struggle.  There are things we can do to manage our own natures.  There are things we can do manage our time.  We can prepare.  We can plan.  But, ultimately, where there is life, there is a certain amount of chaos and things happen that we simply cannot plan for. 

Even if you don’t see it, if everything’s in its place, there’s an absence of clutter, and everything seems perfectly ordered, there’s some form of mental, emotional, or physical strife going on in everyone’s life.

Hospitals are like that.  Everything’s neat and orderly.  There are charts and schedules.  The nurse comes in every couple of hours to take your vitals.  The IV fluids make you get up to use the bathroom every hour.  Someone takes away the dirty linens and trash.   The bathroom gets cleaned.  The hallway floor gets buffed.  Meals come at their allotted times.  Everyone’s friendly, but businesslike. 

And there is suffering, sickness, agony over the past, worry or hope over the future, weariness, and loneliness.  Life.  And sometimes death.  All hidden under incredible order.

Contrast that to my own home.  Even if I’m successful at getting everyone trained to put everything away when they are done with it, and I manage to tame the laundry monster and stow every piece of paper, every toy, every shoe, every wayward dirty boy sock (what is it with the boy socks, anyway?), and come up with a passel of schedules for everyone and everything, there’s always going to be a certain amount of chaos.

Does that mean that order isn’t worth it?  I don’t think so.  There’s nothing wrong with wielding some control over the things you can control.  Human beings are creatures of habit, and anything we can do to make our load a little lighter in the world is worth the effort.  It frees our minds and hearts for dealing with more important things.  And order we can see can be calming in a traumatic situation.

Of course, there’s a danger in going to one extreme or the other.  I think few of us are going to go through life leaving everything to chance and traipsing blindly through whatever life throws at us or becoming a total slave to order, unable to move for fear of creating disorder, but we do sometimes go to extremes.  I tend to be more on the chaotic end of the spectrum, partly as a reaction to my perfectionist tendencies.  Once I really get into cleaning something, or organizing, oh, look out!  It’s very hard to know when to stop, because true perfection is not reachable in most things.  There will always be more that you can do.  And tomorrow you can do it again. 

I simply get overwhelmed, bogged down by it all, jumping from one extreme to another, so my tendency is to just not get started.  I stick to the things I have to get done. 

When it comes to planning, again, my OCD brain will very quickly send me spinning in circles.  I’ve learned to get by with minimal planning to keep my sanity intact. 

But times are changing.  The kiddos are getting older, we’ve got more stuff going on.  I’m getting very clear signals from above that’s it’s time to do some growing.  I need to learn to be more moderate when it comes to cleaning, planning and organizing.  What was enough to get by before isn’t enough anymore.  And I need to become more intentional in everything that I do.  Perhaps this will help keep me grounded in the truly important things and save me from getting carried away. 

This is an area I’ll be working on this summer.  And some other things.  I promise to share when the time is right.

Do you have a summer self-improvement project?

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