Welcome to the Jungle

August 13, 2021

Photo by Su San Lee on Unsplash

We had our carpets cleaned on Monday.

We prepped for this by moving everything movable out of the rooms to be cleaned—small pieces of furniture, storage boxes, and so on. This is what our family room looked liked:

There was also this:

For the past four months, our house has been in more than its usual state of shambles. We already had our adult son living and working remotely from his childhood bedroom when in February my mother-in-law permanently moved out of her apartment into what was our guest room/exercise space. We’ve scrambled to find places to store things we’d kept in her closet (hurricane supplies and holiday decorations, for example) and furniture we didn’t want to get rid of since we knew our son was with us temporarily. He moved out in June, and before we made over his room into our new guest room/exercise space, we needed to clean his carpet, and, well, why not clean all the carpets in the house?

Bear with me, I do have a point…

While I was staring at the chaos in my family room, I realized it quite beautifully reflects the unsettled nature of my inner world right now. My personal space situation plus some additional family challenges (not to mention the state of the world!) have affected my mood, my creativity, and my outlook on life. Even my office, which used to be a haven, had become a dumping ground of paper, projects, and other things that needed to be read or otherwise dealt with. Projects I started at the beginning of the year when I felt optimistic had been buried by an onslaught of paper and other ephemera of decisions made and unmade to the point where I didn’t even want to go in there anymore. (I was embarrassed to have the carpet cleaning guy see it!)

Does this ever happen to you? Your surroundings or events in your personal life become overwhelming, and you feel unable to focus, or make progress on your goals, or even feel optimistic about the future? That’s how I've been feeling. But now that the carpets are dry, and we’ve moved almost everything where it needs to go, I feel more hopeful. I’ve spent much of this week sifting through the Pit of Despair (formerly known as my office), and I’ve made progress there, too.

The chaos is lifting. And while I slowly sort my way through the remaining mess, I’ve been reflecting on the things that did help with life in the jungle, even though I practiced them imperfectly. And they might help you, too, if you're living in chaos right now:

  • Accept that things are unsettled, and that this is the way it is right now. No use pining for the good old days, or railing against the Universe. It is what it is. “This is the adventure I’m going on next” (thank you, Martha Beck).
  • Find one small area you can put in order and retreat there when it becomes too much. My bathroom remained basically unchanged, and I’ve taken many a relaxing bubble bath over the past months. Maybe your retreat involves listening to music in your car, sipping wine on the front porch, or retiring to bed an hour early in order to read a novel that takes you far, far away. There has to be someplace. Find it and make it yours.
  • Realize that this won’t last forever. Whatever the situation, it WILL change eventually, even if you don’t know how it will change. When our son needed to move home, I knew it would be temporary, and I tried not to be upset about losing the peace of our empty nest. 
  • Don’t let your own dreams completely disappear. Choose something small and doable on the way to a personal desire. And do it! Even so, through everything except quarantine when my husband had COVID-19, I’ve continued to see my horse Tank every day or two, even when we just hang out together. He reminds me that dreams DO come true. 
What are your favorite ways to cope when life gets chaotic?

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  1. My favorite way to cope is to spend time in my sewing room. But over time, it has also become a mess. I have managed to keep my sewing table mostly clear most of the time. But our guest room is always a mess, so when we have guests, all that mess moves to my sewing room, and when they leave, it moves back. Someday, I hope to get a lot of the clutter sorted out and put away, given away or thrown out, but I haven’t had the energy to do that either. So I understand what you’ve been going through.

    1. Cheryl--Your sewing room sounds like my office! Don't you sometimes wonder where all the stuff comes from? Surely I didn't collect it all myself?! :) We'll get through it eventually, I suppose.

    2. What I REALLY wonder is WHY I thought I needed all this stuff at one time or another. Yes, we’ll get through it eventually.

    3. I know, right? You should see the art supplies I "had" to have...

  2. Oh Kathy I certainly understand how you are feeling. Hold on tight - things will be made right and it will all be worth it. Hugs!