Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Only connect...

For some reason, I have always taken my first sentence of the new year to be significant. More often that not it has been something like “Happy New Year” or a peculiar combination of words I decided I wanted to say for the occasion. This year I decided to let it be a reminder to myself: “Embrace the messiness.”

To my horror, I have discovered that I have become something of an excessive planner, an ardent organizer. I have even taken this organizing mania to a borderline OCD level – mentally poring over the rooms in my house before I go to bed every night (and sometimes more frequently than that) to make sure I haven’t accidentally left any of my possessions lying around. The irony is that when it comes to bigger and more important decisions – grad school applications, job prospects, life issues of various sorts – I am a hopeless procrastinator, delayer, deferrer. I think at a barely conscious level I think if I have the superficial stuff organized – my room, my schedule for the day – it somehow takes the place of the crucial stuff. At least it occupies my mind and hands to the extent that I don’t have time to concern myself with anything else.

True to form, I always have a laundry list of resolutions for the new year (sometimes they are numbered in order of priority). But this year I decided to embrace a new strategy. I am going to allow a certain amount of messiness, or laxness, to persist in my daily life, and concentrate on other things that matter more, not just in a cosmic sense but really in a personal sense as well. Things like deciding on your future (and deciding what that even means) are tidy if you just leave them alone, like unopened Pandora’s Boxes. They are looming and sinister, but they can’t touch you. If you open them, bad and good things come flying out and everything gets messy. But sometimes you need things to get much messier before they can finally be straightened out. And sometimes there is much joy in that process of finding order if only one can begin it.

That’s very much like writing for me. When I write anything I am proud of, I always start out with a huge hodgepodge of ideas swirling around. Nothing seems connected, everything is chaotic and disjointed. Then gradually, slowly, I cobble together bits and pieces and a unity emerges. It’s revealed that actually everything is connected if only I can see those connections. Those are true moments, heart-pounding and yet peaceful moments, perhaps in some sense like what Liza experiences out rowing or running, what people might feel when they meditate. Ordinary surfaces peel away, there is a deeper throbbing lightness beneath and you dissolve into it. When I don’t experience that messiness writing, and then am able to sort through it, what I write lacks any glimmer of truth or beauty.

It reminds me of my cousin’s strategy of shuffling a deck of cards; he drops them all on the floor and picks them up one by one. It’s not particularly efficient, it is certainly messy, and it is the truest way to achieve the result. Harmony born out of chaos.


1 comment:

  1. Hello Susan,
    I have always loved reading your writing.