Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chaos and Control: Theory


My nephew came through the glass doors to the Green Room and heaved a huge sigh.
"I can't find anything around here."
My house was indeed messy. It contained left-overs from a holiday weekend including visitors and people and people with children. A dumped art bin produced colored pencils strewn out on the floor like tapered fireworks. Lost Lego bits burrowed their way into the carpet. Food, and lots of it, took up space on the counter tops as once-enjoyed plates dirtied themselves in the sink. The children's entire wardrobe (including footwear) were designated into piles around the front room like a mole's work in an abandoned field. My bed had become so clouded with clutter I had to make a padded lounge on the floor in the children's room to sleep.
I told Chup,
"If we left for the day and came back and our house was ransacked by an intruder, I wouldn't even know."
And good gravy man, the toys! In a total act of anarchy the toys had overtaken the available space meant for the living. So very many toys, so little space to sit. This uncomely, overwhelming landscape at my home was making it hard for my nephew to find his favorite rocket ship.
"I know," I said to him, lazily picking up a few items on the floor to inspect, "our house is a little messy right now."
"Right now?" he said to me with his back bent over examining a bin of army guys, "it's ALWAYS messy."
***
That's not fair. I thought.
I spent hours a day cleaning my house. Dusting, vacuuming, organizing, picking up. I have a sense of pride about these things. Just because I decide I will let one weekend go where I don't follow about wiping, will-power fighting and washing everything my children touch means that it's ALWAYS this way.
But still, it festered.
***
One night I went to visit my brother.
When I walked into his house my sister in law started cleaning. Her anxiety about my presence in her unclean house was amusing to my brother,
"I mean, haven't you seen Courtney's house?"
This festered too. Still to this day.
***

I've thought a lot about this aspect to housewifery--the unstable effect of perpetual mess. The only constant in our home is chaos and control. Either there is chaos or there is control. For the longest time I felt this wild cycle eating at me and my ideals of Godliness and cleanliness.
But that's just it.
When I think of God, He also operates under a similar cycle. Consider the cosmos. Before the world was there was chaos, and somehow (an evolution-creation situation, I believe) He made control out of elements thereby creating an earth. And for a while things were good, until chaos took over and God sent a flood to wash the entire planet of disorder. Mother Earth is cyclic too, she who answers the natural world. There are winds of destruction and skies of peace. In fact, our whole lives are ruled by these two elements, control and chaos. Why wouldn't our homes be just like that? Where did I get the idea that my home should always be tidy? Nothing is ALWAYS tidy.
Nothing.
Maybe Godliness is cleanliness, but so is the chaos that proceeds it. Without chaos there would be no control.
I tell my pride: God lets things get messy, so can I.
***
My neighbor stopped by last night for a chat. He's a two-timed PhD biology professor and natural teacher whose very presence begs for inquiries.
"Everyone keeps telling me that this warm winter is going to be horrible for our ecosystem, but isn't this weather pattern natural?" I asked him as he sat in my yellow chairs.
"Well, yes it's natural but the warming of the planet is making these weather patterns more erratic. And it's very destructive for plants"
"Is this evolution? Is the planet ridding itself of plants that can't sustain this weather patterns?"
"Evolution is a slow process, requiring centuries. Plants don't evolve as fast as decades. And animals can move, but plants walk very slow."
And he explains more, but suddenly I am thinking about adaptation.
I am thinking, my house will always be in stages of messy and clean and I can't do anything (sanely) about that, but I can control the extremes to which it becomes a tidal wave of mess.
I think: I am getting rid of the toys.
***

My kids rarely play with toys.
A few things. A firetruck and my son's beloved R2D2 come to mind.
But that's it.
Toys are solely used to make messes.
And paperclips, Tupperware and tongs used for spaghetti are used regularly for play things.
Ever could live inside my jewelry box and has come to know (all to soon) the difference between fake jewels for dress ups and the real deal.
This daughter of mine only wears the real deal.
(Still, I could never throw away the dress ups.)
***
I must stop worrying what visitors think of my house's cleanliness.
Mostly because no matter how orderly my house is when they visit the time I spend talking to them creates an easy window for my children to delve into disorder. 
The presence of a distractor is not lost on my children. While I am working out the problems of the world, they produce a few more, with trips to the flour bin and cookie shelf and anything that has to do with running water.
I can't host a visitor and keep my house clean at the same time. And because I love people in my house, I allow for the aftermath.
Or the during-math.
Making it so the lasting impression of the visitor is one of unashamed disarray.
"Thanks for stopping by!"
***
I tried to explain this to my nephew in a teasing tone,
"You know, my house is messy every time you come over because you make it messy."
But he disagreed,
"No I don't."
Then immediately he dumped the crowded bin of army guys upside down with a pat on the bottom for good measure. 
This creates a small hill of army guys in the threshold of the kitchen.
***

There's nothing wrong with chaos, as long as it doesn't control. And there is nothing wrong with control as long as it doesn't become chaotic.
We cleaned all day yesterday. Every corner of every room. New linens on all the beds. Re-arranged the front room. The kitchen looked as if we had painted with glitter. As I organized and shuffled around delivering toys and stuff in all their proper places I started to feel grateful for the chaos. I like creating order out of disorder--that is Godliness.
***
I am serious about getting rid of the toys, though.