I’m sitting on my living room floor looking at a carpet amply strewn with bits of cat fur. My big kitty, Sammy, is rolling in catnip I sprinkled around for him. My little kitty, Pickles, jumps him. They tussle across the dining area in silent combat. They wrestle a lot, thus the clumps of fur.
I feel content, surveying this landscape.
I am so proud of myself.
We moved a lot when I was a kid. I start a lot of stories off this way, but so many things, good and bad, seem to come back to it. Three grade schools, two junior highs (if I had attended the second one), two high schools. I never understood how to make friends in each new school, particularly as I got older and the relatively neutral preferences of childhood turn into the idiosyncrasies – and appetites – of adolescence.
My way of dealing with the stress and insecurities of all this change was to become, y’know, kinda anal. I was the nerdy kid in glasses, always finishing her homework, always with a couple Kleenex and a pen in the little kid-purse that my mom bought for me. I was nine years old and I already had a bra, a purse, and glasses.
Jesus, no wonder kids hated me.
My point is, and I do have one, until I was in my late twenties, I was always prepared. I was always analyzing.
I always had something to read.
And then I found myself falling in love with my boss, leaving New York with nothing but my bunny and a couple suitcases, and flying to Spain (because what else are you gonna do) to work as an au pair. I got in a fight with the dad of the family, and really I wasn’t clicking with anyone in the family except the toddler, who was awesome but not very influential. I decided I should try things out with an English family I had also corresponded with.
A friend I had made in Spain also had a flight out of Barcelona, so I hitched a ride with him to the airport. The week prior had been so tumultuous with the whole make-a-plan-B-while-in-another-country thing, that I went to the airport without any note of the flight number, gate, or gawd forbid any Spanish language skills.
I had this epiphany, on that drive to the airport. I realized that people are, as a species, pretty dumb. Most of our infrastructure is designed for dumbness. I don’t need to know the flight number, because my name is already in their computer system attached to that flight. All I have to do is ask. And I did, and she printed my boarding passes, and I flew to England. No problem.
I discovered that I didn’t have to know shit and I could still do stuff.
This was liberating. But if you fast forward a few years, I’ve had more adventures, some involving that boss in NYC again, and I’ve crash-landed back in Seattle. Home. Family is here.
Everything, surely, will be calm now.
The first year or so that I lived on my own back here in the ‘burbs north of Seattle, working a job at an office park and packing my own lunches, I was tidy. Orderly. Calm. I cleaned the kitchen every night before bed, maintained a strict gluten free diet, and my emotions quietly ranged from Questioning to Chill.
I had grown up. Leveled out. I understood the realities of life. My heart was healing. I had my own car. This was the final landing place.
I was creating order in my life.
Since then I’ve found a myriad of ways to fuck that order up. Big time. Unloving men, bar drama, reaching for credit cards, choosing shady landlords. Not vacuuming.
I didn’t think I was seeking chaos. I always thought my motives were good. But after a while, to quote a friend, you start to realize the common denominator is you.
In the heart of this, I saw a therapist. I was describing all the bar drama when I just said, “I have to stop going there.”
To my shock, instead of agreeing as any sane person would, he said, “I’m not sure I like that idea.”
“Why?” I asked with incredulity.
“Well Ms Hyde is my patient too…”
We had been talking about Jekyll and Hyde. Dark side/light side. Good Spock, bad Spock. Going to a bar, or staying home and reading.
Order and chaos.
I’m not the little girl who always had a book and a pen with her.
I am a woman who should vacuum more.
But I think… really… all I’ve been trying to learn is how to be in chaos without creating it, or contributing to it, but still being okay in it.
Because, y’know, life is chaos. Kids are messy, love is confusing, relationships are compromise. Making pasta makes a mess. Unfolding emotions make a mess.
Life makes a mess.
And I’m good with that.
Cats, run for the hills. I’m plugging in the vacuum.