A friend emailed me recently in reference to his own situation, “I see chaos ahead.”
Chaos feels like walking the dog in a rainstorm – something you can’t avoid enduring if you don’t want the inside of your home sullied by the dog’s nature-driven needs. I walked my dog, Rabia, in a driving rain today and have been living in chaos as well.
I moved twice in the past month, left one job on a Sunday and began another one three hundred and fifty miles away on a Thursday. The first day in this new state I was cited for a traffic violation and in the process it was discovered I had to pay a hundred dollars for license plates I didn’t properly “surrender” to the People’s Republic of New York when moving to Vermont. In the midst of it, I had to go to traffic school sixty miles away in order to reduce the violation that prompted the officer to stop me in the first place. Add to this the absence of internet in my latest home, a general lack of familiarity with the area, no network of known relationships, and the goo gobs of small daily tasks that must be changed and still accomplished in the midst of disorienting transition. All of that qualifies as chaos.
This is not a complaint you hear. A faint rant perhaps, but not a complaint. It is more a musing on chaos
The emotions embedded in this current change did not really bleed through my defenses until I was three-quarters through the move from my initial temporary housing (of three weeks) to the new home. After a third carload, and with the elements of my disordered life in piles and clumps all around me in an empty house, I slid down the wall to sit next to the poor forlorn dog who was laying on the one thing of familiarity she has, the pillow to her crate. She put her head in my lap and nuzzled for me to comfort her, and in doing so she comforted me. “This is exhausting at my age,” I thought to myself.
As I would later write to my children, I had the sense that this was the feeling that many people in former congregations must have felt as I put them through the paces of change. (FYI: that is empathy not an apology for being an agent of necessary change).
So, to my friend in chaos, here are some things I know to do when the surroundings get harsh and the disorder clutters our sleep with noises and restless dreams. Whenever we encounter powerlessness in the primary arena of our lives, doing those things we still have the power to do gets us through.
Doing the smaller, more tangential things won’t change the reality of powerlessness with which we are contending, but it will keep the fires burning and offer small respite enough to soldier on. Storms end sooner or later and, eventually, the dove reappears with an olive branch.
To My Friend in Chaos
- Walk the dog – don’t waste energy fighting change you cannot resist (or that you need to endure) even if it will get you very wet; it beats the alternative.
- Cook – do the ordinary things that were part of your life before the chaos hit, even if you don’t feel like it.
- Sweat – don’t stop exercising or doing the things that exerts energy and temporarily takes your mind off the chaos.
- Old school – write notes, get a flower in a vase, light a candle for the table (or floor if you don’t have a table yet); small things you may have looked past in your pre-chaos moments will offer an inflated sense of warmth in your current state.
- Build a nest – you may only have or be able to fill a three by five space in your current house or life, but make that small space the coziest place you can while the chaos rages around you.
- Breath and stretch – if you do nothing else take several moments throughout the day to slow your breath and stretch your tense muscles; really, do it.
That’s by best advice for heart and mind management while enduring chaos and navigating change. Oh, and find a steam room if you can.
Peace be with you.