Excuse me while I organize my life

I cleaned the stovetop today. And the countertops. I washed the sheet I use to cover the couch to protect it from my dogs’ muddy paws. I planned meals through Sunday, put together a grocery list, and answered emails I received last week. I’ve been busy since Sunday, off doing other things – visiting daughters and doctors and covering a murder trial – and I needed to put the small pieces of my household together to help me think better.

When I was in college, I couldn’t write a paper or study if something in the room was askew. The lighting had to be just right. When I write something on deadline, I need to sit in my favorite chair, be in complete silence and have some type of simple food near me to munch on. It used to be M&Ms, but now it’s mostly melba toast.

I’m not sure when I became so anal or structured. I envy people who go with the flow, who can think and work in chaos. Maybe it’s because when I write, my thoughts are everywhere and so I need my physical surroundings to be in order. Whatever the reason, I’m 43 and get cranky when I don’t get my way with myself, so I pretty much stick to my instincts.

My brother and I had an interesting email conversation today about how we find order in our lives and what we need to satisfy those outlying needs. Not deep things like love or sex or companionship or career, but small inanimate things that accompany our everyday lives and make us feel whole or organized or complete.

For instance, my brother wrote: “I have a tendency to collect pens, pencils, notebooks, notepads, and briefcases…Clocks and watches have always caught my attention, too. Particularly watches. I never seem to be satisfied with the one I have.  I’m always looking for that “perfect” watch. Rather odd, wouldn’t you say?” Not at all, my brother! Sounds perfectly normal to me.

I wrote back: “I am, as you know, very picky about what I write with. I prefer pencils when I’m conducting interviews because they are lighter weight than pens, but I like pens for everything else – journaling, taking notes. I also love a nice clock. Old ones, particularly. I have a clock in every room except the bathroom. But I guess what catches my eyes most, superficially, are handbags. I love purses. I love being organized and so I’m always looking for the ultimate organizer. Then I need one for every occasion – small, medium and large.”

When the inside of me feels the most jumbled up is when I need order in my kitchen and living room, within my purse and desk, and especially with the people I care about the most. I don’t like to leave conversations unspoken or fights half argued. I like resolution and hope. I like knowing things are smooth, or most likely will be once I’ve cleaned up the mess – metaphorically and otherwise.

I love writing on deadline and making things messy. I thrive on the very chaos that drives me to organize and clean. I’m massaging both sides of my brain, using all the energy I have to see the whole picture of my life and not ostracize one for the other.

I see the television screen is dirty and a candle is almost burned out. I have a trial to write about, but not until that dust is gone. Pardon me while I organize.

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