This life is chaotic sometimes. That sounds obvious, but let me explain myself.
I used to dread mealtimes for the simple reason that before we ate, all the kids would be hungry and hyper and running around screaming, the stove fan would be on (that was always a given; it didn’t matter what Mom was cooking), my older brother would be trying to practice his beloved piano, and my parents would try to talk over the chaos; try to get us in order to set the table and wash our hands. It was stimulation overload for me, and since I was an introvert, I would try to hide; to cower away until it was all over. But of course, I would have to set the table. I would have to creep into the kitchen, grab a plate, dish out my food, and sit, sipping on my water, until the rest of the family calmed down.
I know my example doesn’t sound too bad, but it was enough to make me dread the time before supper.
I have something against tense chaos. My room is a disaster most of the time, true, but it’s an organized disaster. I can find things when I need them, and the same goes for the rest of the house. But when people start talking too loudly; when someone tries to play the piano while another tries to vacuum; when my little brothers start playing and yelling in the living room while the stove fan is on . . . That’s when I start to snap. And it’s not obvious. It’s more shutting myself down inside, maybe stealthily plugging my ears for a minute to calm down. It’s tensing up and tensing up until I yell at the noise-maker/s, and run around the house, turning off all the radios, stove fans (a pet peeve of mine, if you hadn’t noticed), and sending the little boys to play in their room.
That’s my life, and I’ll be living with it for the next three to four years.
And if I don’t find a way to cope with it, I’m going to go crazy.
The point of all this is that life is chaotic. There’s no way out of it. Whether you’re walking through a crowded mall or maneuvering your car through traffic, life will be chaotic. You’ll feel it during the post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas rush, where walking through Target or Walmart, there will be an unmistakable, tense vibe powered by people ripping their hair out to find just the perfect gift.
But there’s nice, comfortable chaos too.
A favorite end-of-August, beginning-of-September place for me is the Minnesota State Fair. I relish the times we’re there, and it might be surprising, given that I’m such an introvert, but being there is like playing a favorite game or reading a special book you’ve read so many times you’ve lost count.
My family and I try to go to the Fair once every year. We usually spend about ten to eleven hours there, arriving as early as possible and staying as late as our tired feet and legs will allow. I remember one year when I was able to spend a few more hours walking the fairgrounds with my dad. We hardly did anything we hadn’t done before, except buying a cream puff each and a well-worth-eight-dollar Gyro. But just the experience of being there was enough for me. I never do anything special, like riding the rides of famous Midway, or getting an over-priced Henna tattoo, or watching Grandstand concerts. I like to buy a few delectable State Fair specialties-on-a-stick and wander the old, familiar streets, just watching people go by.
It may be chaos, but it’s a comfortable chaos.
Christmas present-opening is another comfortable, exiting chaos that I can’t get enough of. When our whole family sits around our living room in designated spots (I’ve managed to get the end of the couch three years in a row now: Little victories of life.) and tear into the red and green and gold wrapping paper, never expecting what to find underneath, then exclaiming over the contents, it creates a chaos that I wish could go on forever and never change.
Worship with our church is one of my prime examples of comfortable chaos.
I attend Youth Church every Wednesday night, and the chaos that ensues is overwhelming, but invigorating. We gather in a large main area that has round tables for chatting with friends and a Ping-Pong table for the more competitive of the group. The older students gather at the small tables while the younger attendees usually find a ball of sorts and start kicking it around the huge, open hallway.
After an acceptable socializing period, we move into the sanctuary to hear a message from our pastor.
Then we worship. We are encouraged to spread out among the chairs, to darker areas of the room in order to concentrate. A pianist will start playing, or a guitarist will start strumming, and the voices of our group will be raised to the heavens in sometimes-joyful, sometimes-pleading or desperate praise to God.
I usually choose a place to stand or sit where two walls meet in a slight corner, just perfect for leaning my back against, then I watch the musicians or stare at the ceiling or close my eyes and bask in the comfortable chaos that surrounds me, adding my voice to the praises.
Life can be chaotic, but I won’t let it control me. I’ll look for the comfortable chaos in everyday life, and when tense chaos strikes, I’ll close my eyes and lean my head back and count to ten . . . Then I’ll go gently remove a toy from my brother’s hand or turn off the stove fan and remember that nice chaos is easier to find than harsh, and being positive pays off more than being negative.
Now excuse me while I sit alone in my organized-chaotic room and read a book to recharge my introvert batteries from all the pre-supper noise.