My house is a mess. It isn’t just the normal accumulation of clutter which happens to us every time we need to move things around to make space for a project. Furniture gets shifted. Piles are stacked in corners because we don’t quite know where the things belong in the shifted space, but at least over there they’re out of the way. Temporary piles linger for months or even years. They gather dust. Dust turns to gunk. Until every place I look feels like an indictment of our housekeeping.
I can trace the map to explain how we arrived at this place. The decisions and compromises we made because of how fast we needed to move and what we were able to carry. My house is a mess because I was busy with an endless stream of tasks that were higher priority, more urgent, more anxious. We’ve been living reactively for years now. Beginning with the summer of 2019 which felt five years long because of plumbing disasters and needing to reconstruct half of the house. Then the pandemic and the multi-year scramble to adapt to the shifted world, Howard’s disabilities, and inflation with rising interest rates. Everything in our world seemed tighter quarters. No space to really see anything.
Gunk accumulates in those conditions. Clutter accumulates. And we don’t even see it because we’re focused on important and urgent priorities. Yet over time we begin to feel frustrated and dissatisfied with all our rooms. Then comes the morning that I finally see the shower, the sink, the floor and think “wow, that’s disgusting. How do we live like this?”
I sat with that thought for weeks. It percolated in my head waking the voices of self-criticism that live there.
This summer added a new burden to contend with, one I won’t get to put down for the rest of my life. Going forward I will always have diet restrictions and/or medications to manage my EOE. I responded to this with my usual crisis management instincts: dive in, cope, grieve efficiently, plan thoroughly, perform all the experiments, do all the research, move everything as quickly as possible into a stable state. Three months of that approach ended with me sobbing in the doctor’s waiting room because a cluster of clerical errors delayed a treatment and an appointment. Annoyance is an appropriate response to these sorts of errors, not sobbing. My approach had to shift if I was to be able to collaborate effectively with my doctors about ongoing care. I needed to shift myself out of crisis-sprint mode and into something that could be sustained day after day for the rest of my life.
Making that shift while in the middle of running a Kickstarter, which is 100% energetic sprint, has been tricky. I is like I imagine carding wool to be. Pulling and separating strands that were entangled, slowly creating order out of knots. I have to run at the Kickstarter as hard and fast as I can, because every penny we bring in during this 31 day run buys me breathing room for everything else. So each day includes Kickstarter pushing. Then I have to step away from the Kickstarter and find a way to move that isn’t running. There are deadlines and writing goals that I set for myself which I’m blowing off right now. I’m not going to get SLSC mostly edited by the end of October. My newsletter is late. I owe two posts to my Patrons. All of those require focus push energy and that pulls me in the wrong direction. I have to spend all of my non-Kickstarter moments in a slower space. I need to pause and recognize that fast and efficient isn’t always better. Sometimes it is just exhausting.
If managing my EOE needs a slow and steady pace, perhaps the answer to my other messes is the same. It is kind of all the same mess really. My house is the physical manifestation of how I’ve been thinking and organizing. The piles and detritus are the results of my decisions. Perhaps untangling one will make sense of the others. So this week instead of pushing at writing, I am picking one thing in my house to de-gunk each day. It’s fine if I do more while I’m working. As I’m cleaning I notice ten or twenty more things which also need de-gunked, but I do not make a list to keep track of them. I do not assign them to myself. Lists and tracking are a focused-energy burden. They engage “get things done” sprint energy. Instead I pick one thing for the next day, trusting that I will notice the other things again. In fact, as some areas become cleaner, I will notice the messy spots more. A little bit of daily de-gunking will go a long way toward improving my habitat and perhaps will help me approach my health in the same way.
I’m on day 3 of the de-gunking initiative. Small spots in my house are better. I’m feeling good about it so far. Two more days of Kickstarter push and then I can do all the math to figure out how much breathing room we have.