I am a control freak. I try to hide it, but the people I live with know it all too well. Mostly, I reason, I just don’t like messes because they screw around with my inner peace. And messes have to be cleaned up. I hate to clean up. If these people I live with didn’t make messes in the first place, there would be less to clean up and I would have a lot more inner peace.
If you have children and attempt to implement this philosophy, you’ll find that you spend a lot of time telling them to clean up their messes or not to make them at all. You’ll find that instead of focusing on the beautiful, creative, and imaginative work they are doing (say, a painting inspired by the artist Joan Miro), you are noticing first and foremost that they’ve set up their easel over the rug you just washed and that, before setting up the easel, they failed to put away five boxes worth of Barbie dolls, tutus, art supplies, and Legos, all of which, since yesterday’s clean-up, managed to take up residence on said rug.
And, let’s face it, elementary-school-aged kids need a lot of coaching in order to stay tidy. They require constant haranguing, which tends to interrupt their play. Are you really using that sock as your car right now or can we put that in the dirty clothes basket? Really—that copy of Amelia Bedelia lying on the floor is your ‘post office’?
Haranguing also interferes with my inner peace.
I’m doing a lot of self-talk today, telling myself to sit in the mess and be thankful. Also, to shut my mouth because I don’t want the thing these kids remember most to be my reminding them for the twelve-thousandth time to take off their shoes at the back door. Or that I couldn’t see my daughter’s Miro-inspired masterpiece because I had eyes only for all the Crap Made in China.
On another note, I do have the sense to realize that inner peace so dependent on my surroundings is not anything to write home about and, in fact, isn’t true peace at all. That kinda peace is just an anxiety disorder at a masquerade ball. We live in a world of wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes and floods and death and betrayal. That’s real Chaos. Not Barbies on the floor. I know what real peace feels and looks like because I’ve spent some time with it. (We’re friends, you see, but at times I’m not so good at keeping in touch.) I know that real peace, irresistible peace, likes to whisper in the middle of a life falling apart, do not be afraid, and you can’t help but follow its command.