I recently spent the day in a dusty back room of a radio station, helping to organize shelves of CDs that towered above my head. There are stacks and stacks of unorganized discs, slowly being gathered into orderly rows, alphabetical by label, numerical within each label’s section. After several hours of working alongside others, I emerged triumphant into the afternoon sunshine, happy to have made it to the H section.
Making order from chaos is rather therapeutic.
As I told Quester on our drive home, I think it feels good to organize things because it’s something we can’t really do with life. Life is organic, messy, and highly resistant to our incessant categorizing. “It’s not that everything doesn’t all fit together,” I mused. “It’s just that we can’t see the big picture, and anyway it’s in like 17 dimensions.”
Trying to contain one’s entire life within an organized template is a recipe for stress.
Most of the creative people I know don’t try to be organized to that extent. But still, it’s held up in the media as an ideal. It infiltrates our minds. “I’m okay until I look at a women’s magazine,” one writer friend told me. She sees the sections on decorating your home, compares it to her own lived-in space, and is overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
But whose standards are we trying to live up to, anyway? The homes in those magazines were prepared for their photo shoot by a team of cleaners, designers, and photographers. Even if you know people whose homes look picture-perfect in real life, chances are there are other areas of their life that are full of uncertainty. We are all human.
And uncertainty is not the negative thing we’re often led to believe. It’s in those grey areas, the unknown, the mysteries, where we often find our inspiration for creativity, or our intuitive wisdom on what to do next.
So how do you reconcile the need to be in control with the desire for peace and contentment? Practice the art of letting go.
Realize that you can’t control every little thing. Relax into your day. Trust that the things that need to get done, will. Do you have a long to-do list? Focus on your bigger-picture goals, perhaps picking just two or three main items to achieve in a day. Simplify.
Set overall intentions for your life. What do you want most right now? Joy, love, peace, creativity? Answer this question for yourself, then create affirmations to remind you regularly. I’m focusing on enjoying life fully. If I’m not enjoying a particular task, I either change what I’m doing or shift my own attitude toward it.
Be gentle with yourself as you figure out how to let go. Your behavior was learned over many years, and chances are you won’t change everything in one day. When you feel stressed, remind yourself of your intentions. Deep breathing also helps.
Organize the things that feel good. If you enjoy folding laundry and putting it all in its place, do that. If it’s a huge chore that drains your energy, enlist help or just leave your clean laundry in the basket (shocking, I know!). I like to organize my writings and journals. Laundry? Yeah, I’ll get to it eventually, when the time feels right.
Encourage your creative side. When you tap into your creative wellspring, you’ll automatically begin to let go and ride the waves of energy. While you’re in the zone, you’re a master of letting go and letting things flow. Emerge from your creative process slowly, taking those lessons with you as you move on to more mundane tasks.
In the art of letting go, your life is your canvas. Keep practicing, and eventually it will become more natural. You’ll flow from chaos to order to chaos again, taking it all in stride, with a big smile on your face.