Yesterday a friend stopped by with a head full of thoughts. After a few minutes of visiting, she apologized for jumping from topic to topic somewhat at random. I told her not to worry about it, she just had a lot of thoughts jumbled up in her head and I was there to help her sort. Sorting often begins with just pulling things out so you can see what you have. I know exactly how she feels. I’ve been packing thoughts, experiences, and emotions into my head for two months now. At this point it is all jumbled up rather like a bin full of multi-part toys or 3D puzzles. Emotions are separate from the experiences that triggered them. Thoughts are scattered so that I can barely tell what they are let alone how they fit together. It means that every shift in my life brings new things to the top of the heap, but no sense of order.

It all accumulated because there was no time to sort or assemble. No physical spaces in my house because offices resided in my front room and kitchen while I was making walls and floors in the places where they belonged. Every room was over full, while extra belongings overflowed into a storage pod occupying most of my driveway. No time to pause because the sooner I got physical spaces organized, the sooner offices could return to where they belonged. No time because several high-stakes tasks had very short deadlines to make sure that my two neurodivergent college freshman were set to start school. No space in my brain because every day I was slotting physical tasks like plastering walls in between administrative tasks like talking to the insurance company and in between emotional tasks like helping my loved ones sort all their emotions about the life disruption and the impending onset of school. Sometimes all the spare thoughts and emotions just have to be tossed into a bin to be sorted later.

Now I’ve reached a point where I’ve begun to have time and space. Yet I stare at that bin and wonder if I really want to dig into it all. Sorting can be so messy just when I got things cleared up. Except the bin will linger, shifting randomly, spilling, and making me unbalance until I take time to sort.

So then the question becomes how do I sort? I frequently sort by person putting all the thoughts and experiences relating to that person together. Yet it might also make sense to sort by category: Thoughts and experiences related to kids going back to school, or emotions about the ways life got expensive, or Thoughts and emotions about things which are finally happening that I waited a long time to see. It is very much like sorting puzzle pieces. I could sort by shape or color or texture. Except there is more than one puzzle, and the pieces are mixed together. So I make guesses about which pieces go where, knowing that I’ve almost certainly sorted some things into the piles where they won’t actually fit.

Sorting can be tiresome, but the results are good.