ClutterMess

Things are pretty ordinary around here lately. Good and full ordinary, but still.

Wow, isn’t that like every journalism school example of the lead sentence you shouldn’t write if you want people to read on?

But it’s the truth because, as usual, I’m thinking lots about ordinary and those things that come back around over and over. So much of life feels that way.

I talked about this with my hairdresser Sarah on Saturday — how we’ll think we’ve learned or grown beyond a certain lesson about how we misfire in relationships or how we neglect to put up appropriate boundaries — and then wham-o, here it comes around again.

I used to get so angry at myself when the lesson would come around, berate and judge myself for not being more mature or wise, ask what sort of fool I was to have to go through this again. Ask, “Why didn’t I learn this the last time?”

It can be confusing because these coming around things might feel exactly the same, but if we look closer, the lesson is often in altered packaging, and it’s facing the you you’ve become since the last pass through, so it’s different.

Sarah and I talked about how each time these feelings/fears/broken places arise we have an opportunity to listen, learn and grow — in a way that you were perhaps not ready for the last time.

“It’s not a linear process anyway,” she said.

As we talked about our inner workings, I noticed myself circling down with my index finger, as if I were getting to the core of it, while she circled her finger upward, to express the higher level of understanding.

And both seem to be true — the deeper (of healthy self-examination) and the higher (of seeking out what is better, seeking God), and both reveal the motion of these growing, forward-moving lives because usually we do not stand completely still.

Lately some of my motion has looked like sorting through loads of papers and projects and various toys. I’m a little ways into what I expect to be an ongoing and large scale purge.

I talked with my friend Angela about this. About how unsettling it can be, how hard to let go, how much I feel I’m just brushing the surface and never able to make the kind of progress I want to make. Over the years, I’ve gone through some of the same things again and again, gradually making smaller piles, but still — the circling.

The practical side of me wants to dive in and get it done, knowing how little time I have to devote to this stuff in the midst of our twirly whirly life, while Ms. Sentimental wants to take it slowly, allow myself to feel what I do as I look at these memories, these tangible pieces of life. I know it’s sort of impractical, but still.

Many organizational clutter control experts suggest “a touch it once” approach in regards to stuff, but this has rarely (if ever) worked for me. “Maybe it’s more like an ‘oh, there you are again’ kind of thing,” Angela said as we walked through the rain.

Perhaps this time you’re ready to part with that thing and maybe not, but you’ve made contact with it again. And maybe that’s better than pretending it’s not there.

Whether it’s our emotional stuff or stuff of the tangible kind, we can acknowledge we see it, recognize the ways we’ve grown, hold out hope. When I refrain from so harshly judging myself in the areas I fall short, expecting perfection, I allow myself to inhale grace in the ordinary. And the exhale touches others in my life.

I note the knee-jerk stress response, the self-disappointment, pick up the same drawing, photo or birthday card — think, “Oh, there you are again.”

I recognize the movement, small and slow though it might be. It’s the movement of a life.

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