The mess in my apartment never goes away. We get this room clean, and that room clean, and the other, but rarely all at the same time. Even when we push to get everything in order, there is always something neglected — usually my mess in the second bedroom where I keep all my art supplies, strewn about, which I always promise to myself to organize but never get around to doing.
I’ll organize this, and organize that, and it will help me keep my life together for a time — organizing my closet or my deskspace or the living room — but as soon as a stressful time comes, and they come with regularity, the organization goes out the window — I throw my clothes on the floor and never pick them up, food kept on my desk with nail polish and sewing thread and sticky notes — it’s always the concept of, do what is necessary now and put everything in place later, when you’ve returned to “normal” energy state and can handle it.
But life seems to move at a faster pace than my body can keep up with. Maybe could keep up if I had a normal amount of energy, then I’d have the space and drive to get that make-up work done regularly, if I still weren’t able to just maintain everything as I went along (that being the idealized perfect state to which we aspire, right?). Maybe if I had the energy that I have when I’m at my best — but all the time — things would be great. And when I’m at my best energy level, I feel like I could continue things like that, if only I did this and changed that and kept things this way. And I try those things as they come to me, I am constantly reorganizing my entire life, never stop fine-tuning, trying to make things more efficient. But it’s never enough, I just don’t have enough in me to keep up with it all.
So maybe we get the junk off the floor and vacuum and swiffer everything, and tidy up around the edges of things, but there’s still that mess within those edges, still always something just sitting in a jumbled pile that I’m supposed to get to later. No matter how well I am — and even with an able-bodied husband doing more than his share of the work — we never get it all.
I have trouble thinking when I can see clutter. What it is about it, I don’t know, surely some gender considerations there, my insecurity about my disability always looming, and my personal idiosyncracies. But when there is visual clutter, my brain locks up and it is so much harder to process very basic things. And if only it were as easy as getting up and taking care of the clutter, then the energy I would be using on thought processing goes to the physical labor of cleaning, and I’m back to blank square one anyway, and a day later the clutter is back again.
And that’s the cycle I find myself in.
One day, a couple months ago, I sat in this chair trying to comprehend what I was reading, with a mess on the floor in my peripheral vision, and I spun around and thought to myself, why can’t this be beautiful?
This mess, this disorder, everything that comes with a life well-lived? The clothing on the floor, the half-filled mug of tea, the unmade bed, the shoes in the entryway, papers scattered about? Why do I feel like it weighs me down? Why can’t it be like the wrinkles and mottled skin and greying hair acquired with age: a reminder of everything you’ve done to earn them, a window into the life you’ve lived to get them?
Why can’t it be an indicator of richness? Why can’t it be something positive?
That one moment, I felt it deep inside. And it hasn’t come back. I just can’t look around and not feel weighed down by everything being so disordered, feel it reflects poorly on me, look at it and see nothing more than “something I should be doing but can’t do.” Something that is my responsibility, but I haven’t the capability. That is what pulls at me when I look at my mess, my beautiful mess. All I can see is everything I can’t do, while simultaneously feeling, in the back of my head, that I can do it but choose not to and that I am just of poor character, lazy, unmotivated, irresponsible, inconsiderate, slothful and selfish…
Maybe my physical mess, then, is a manifestation of my mental mess.
I just want to know. Why can’t I be beautiful too? If this is all I can do? Why do I feel lesser than the middle class folks who have these lovely tidy homes, not perfect and still full of personality, but tidy? They get to be beautiful, they get to be responsible and considerate. Why can’t I be too, if this is all I can do?
What will it take for me to look at that mess again, and see something grand? Will I ever see it again?