Chaos

In case y’all are keeping tabs on my progression through the pandemic phases, we’ve now reached the “I-Want-to-Create-Full-Blown-Chaos” stage.

Perhaps y’all are unfamiliar with that stage. It’s the one where you up and quit your job or buy a new house/boat/car or get a puppy or cut bangs. You know, something that adds flair and drama and conflict. Because what you’re really looking for is a way to feel ALIVE.

And now that I’ve been in quarantine lock-down for some ungodly amount of days, I find myself feeling that itch.

But I own a bookstore I love. And Simon gives me side-eye if I even look at Zillow (We’ve moved 4 times in the last 8 years. He’s right. I need to give it a rest). He’s also (wisely) categorically said no to a puppy, a goat, and a micro pig. We’re done having kids. Bangs look like shit on me.

And yet, I still crave it. That rush of chaos. The tingle. The thrill of it all.

This is the season, it turns out, where I have to learn to sit with the desire to create chaos. To feel those feelings. And just let them be.

In all times before this, when chaos has come knocking, I have run right toward it. In big ways and small ways. Damaging ways & innocuous ways. This is the first time I’ve been healthy enough to see this desire to shake things up for what it is. And to choose my response to it.

It’s the choice that matters.

To me, anyway.

From the time I was about 16 years old, I’ve beaten myself up with the idea that if I was just spiritual enough (in whatever form I happened to be practicing at the moment), I wouldn’t feel intense temptation, or wrestle with the desire to do completely selfish things, or struggle with feelings I’d prefer not to have.

But I’ve begun to understand that what matters is not that I’m somehow transcendent enough to avoid these feelings, itches, chaos-loving desires altogether. What matters is that I choose to not cause harm. To not leave a wake of unnecessary destruction. To not be the Goddess of Chaos just because.

Sometimes the right choice just comes easily. But there isn’t much triumph in that. The triumph is in the struggle. It’s in the choice.

Alcoholics tend to like chaos–sometimes even in recovery. But I’m learning I can say no, the same way I can say no to a drink.

I get to choose.

And y’all can all rest assured that there are absolutely no quarantine bangs happening over here.

Busy, busy, busy

I’m not a huge fan of being told what to do (that’s a tremendous understatement).

This is a for real problem.

The books we pick for book club at the bookstore that I own? I procrastinate reading them until the absolute last minute. Why? Because someone told me I had to read them.

Yep, even the ones I pick myself.

Told you it was a problem.

I mightily resist to-do lists. Calendars? Nope. Not gonna happen.

But my kid?

She loves a damn list. Grocery list. To-do list. School supply list.

All the lists all the time.

And she loves to be told what to do. Or–more accurately–she feels confident and secure when her entire day is scheduled out.

I would die, y’all.

But not Janiepants.

In fact, she flounders without a schedule. And it had been like hard-core, old-school summer vacation up in here since mid-April. Truth be told, even when she was still technically “in school” at the end of last school year, she’d get up, finish her homework by 6:30am, and have a whole day unfurling before her.

Which she always thinks she wants. But she doesn’t. Like, really, really doesn’t.

I mean, sure we had stuff that she was supposed to get done every day. It wasn’t total anarchy. She had an online checklist (I cringe at the thought). But somehow–magically–things would get checked off without actually getting done. Or she wouldn’t even bother to check them off–perhaps her dad & I weren’t super great at keeping track (we sucked at it).

But after months of lolling about aimlessly, this past weekend baby girl crossed a line.

I asked her to tidy, dust, and sweep her room.

And then the gates of hell opened.

There was screaming, and stomping, and throwing herself on her loft so hard it looked like the whole damn thing was going to fall down. It was such an epic fit that I kept getting the giggles. Because what the actual fuck, kid?!?

They are chores.

They will not hurt you.

She, obviously, felt otherwise.

Later, when her father and I were recounting the absolute burst of insanity that had unfolded in our otherwise relatively harmonious home, I had a stroke of brilliance: the kid needed to be busy. Like really, really busy. Zen monastery busy. Focused. Productive. Contributing to the greater good. And that need to work & have a purpose could be channeled into a much cleaner house.

Look, it’s not selfish. It’s just practical. Everyone’s a winner!

Now, literally every moment of Jane’s day from 8am to 5pm is scheduled out. She gets an hour and a half free time during the day. The remainder of the time is researching (we’re going to plant a garden), or playing guitar, learning Spanish, reading, doing yoga, creating a video for a Warrior Cats Club (it’s a thing), and–yep–cleaning.

Honestly, I was a little worried I had her over-scheduled. But yesterday, I came home at 5:30 to a happy kid, not that moody, aggravating, stompy human that had been holding us hostage with her increasingly simmering rage.

The kid just needed a purpose. Work that really meant something.

Don’t we all, really?

She’s just real, real lucky we live in the city. Otherwise, she would have found herself with a pet cow to milk every morning at 5am. It would’ve been the first thing on her list.

Quarantine is…

new, punk-rock haircuts. Because, why not?

a whole lot of Little Debbies. (Literally. New day, new Debbie.)

worrying about folks who play like they’re oblivious to the pandemic.

walking the dog, running, and taking a bike ride. All in the same morning.

deep, real grief at the loss of physical connection.

watching our 9 year old entertain herself by “chickening.” (It’s real weird. Looks and sounds about like an asthmatic chicken in a tizzy. It’s a special time, y’all.)

getting angry when folks can’t seem to measure 6 feet properly (I’ve got zero spacial orientation, but I know if my arm can brush yours, you sure aren’t 6 feet from me).

wanting Zestos ice cream so bad I can imagine-taste it.

buying shirts from our favorite ATL places in the hopes that they’ll still be here when this is over.

wondering if this is endless. Like eternity. Or the television run of Law & Order.

laughing at the itty bitty bunch of grapes we got in our grocery delivery (If we were field mice, they might’ve been enough. But only if we were field mice that didn’t really care for grapes that much anyway.)

reading books just because I want to–no agenda, no timeline, just me & the book. (the best kind of bliss)

quitting washing my hair–because when else will I have the opportunity to see what happens?

a month in, wishing I’d never taken the opportunity to see what happens.

wondering why wearing a mask around your neck ever feels like the right thing to do?

having coffee each morning with my guy and knowing we don’t have anywhere to be. And being grateful (mostly).

listening to our kid lay out the backstory for her favorite cats in the Warrior Cats series. It’s kind of epic. And weird. And she knows a helluva lot about those damn cats.

finally embracing FaceTime. (But I’m still 10 kinds of awkward on a video call)

crying when our daughter cries about missing her friends.

crying because I miss my best friend.

crying because.

laughing. More often than I cry.

time to think, to examine, to unearth who I want to be.

meditation, and yoga, and deep breaths.

gratitude that I really like these 2 that I live with.

gratitude that I’m alive.

time.

and more Little Debbies.