Thoughts: In Praise of Chaos

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This is my dining room. 

it’s kind of a disaster right now. So is my living room. What has been my studio for the past few years is a construction zone. The back room, what was a kitchen back when this place was a duplex, is in the process of being torn apart to become the new studio.

We had to clear everything out of the two rooms that we are renovating. And it was a little embarrassing how much stuff was in them. I cleared a lot of things to the dump. Put stuff in bins for the attic, and still, the rest of my downstairs looks like this. 

it’s not even that big a project. We need to raise the ceiling in what was my studio about an inch to let me put in a large piece of furniture that came from my parents’ home. Then we will turn the former studio into an office for the woman I live (my new bride). Most of what I am doing in the back room to make it into a studio involves demolition – removing kitchen cabinets to make room for my drawing tables, and putting in some new lights. 

Simple. Right? 

I’ve lived in old houses most of my adult life. I love them dearly, but the one thing I know is that nothing is simple. And just like in life, work done in one place tends to spill out everywhere else. It’s never as simple as it seems on paper. 

I am not enjoying the chaos. I’ve lived enough chaos in my life. A divorce. Kids moving in and out as a result of the divorce, and then college and life. Four successful startups. The pastorate. For a guy who loves peace, I seem to draw crazy. And home has always been that place of peace for me.

But life changes, and as kids have come and gone, and as I have remarried recently, my house has changed and adapted too. I’ve knocked out walls. Added power. Re-arranged rooms. Painted stuff. I hate the chaos of it, but I love the results – a house that works for where I am in life, where ever I am in life.

Here’s what I have learned. There are two kinds of chaos. The kind that is thrust on you, and the kind that leads to something.

The kind that is thrust on you happens to all of us. Life is full of surprises, and so are the people in our lives. You deal with it and move on. 

The kind that leads to something is the chaos we choose because it leads to something better.  There is a purpose to it and we know the purpose. This chaos is easier to deal with because we can see the arc of chaos leading to something better. 

Yes, Chaos has an arc. It gets worse, worse, worse, and then something turns and it gets better. When chaos is thrust on us, sometimes it’s hard to see when we have hit that peak, because we can’t see the path and purpose. Indeed, at times, there is no path or purpose. (I bet we all know a few crazy makers who specialize in chaos without purpose).

But when we choose the chaos as part of the path to something. It’s easier.

I’ve come to think that, despite my constant search for peace and simplicity, introducing enough change to create some purposeful chaos is a good thing. it builds our chaos muscles, our ability to deal with the other kind – the stuff that is thrust on us. It reminds us of the arc and that it will get better, even when it doesn’t feel like it. 

I’m not sure I am right, but I think I am. 

So here I am in my own self-induced chaos. I think today is the top of the arc. Eric, my favorite local contractor, should finish raising the ceiling today. We’ll stack the top of the chest in the base and move the art table into the back room.  By this weekend, the woman I love should have her office.  In a week or two, I should have the studio at least functional, if not finished, and can move my paintings and get back to work on art. 

Home will again be the sanctuary, not the war zone. The chaos would have found its purpose. I’ll be back at the low end of the arc, where I like to be. 

For now. 

Be well. Travel Wisely, 

Tom 

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