If you’ve ever had an uncommon illness, particularly a chronic one, you probably know how much relief can come from a diagnosis. You have symptoms, you know something’s wrong, but if the doctor takes too long to figure out what it is, you start thinking you’re crazy. Maybe it’s all in your head. But then you get the diagnosis and it’s better. Even if you have something bad, there’s a comfort in the KNOWING.
That is how I feel this week, and no, I’m not talking about PCOS. I’m talking about CHAOS. Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome. Seeing that written for the first time made me feel normal. There is comfort in knowing that other people are going through the same things that I am. I currently suffer from three breeds of CHAOS. The first is actually the easiest to deal with. My husband has social anxiety, so he doesn’t like strangers in the house. But he’s willing to make exceptions. The Parents as Teachers Parent Educator. Our friends and family. They’re all welcome. That’s where the other two breeds of CHAOS kick in. The next is an old, chronic form that stems from a lack of education. My mother is a Born Organizer, so I grew up in an organized home, but I never really learned how to create that for myself. It was just something she did automatically. How do you teach someone to breathe? Well, if you never had to struggle to learn to breathe, it’s probably not likely to be possible. So, without that education, when I got out on my own, things would slowly slide into CHAOS until I noticed and then I’d spend an entire day cleaning. But keeping things clean never became a habit.
The last breed of CHAOS is an acute form that I am slowly getting over. In the Spring of 2005, I was deeply depressed for about 6 months. When I finally felt like getting out of bed again, my house was buried beneath so much clutter and crap, I didn’t even know where to begin. And then we moved, and brought it all with us. I was trapped in a smaller place, with tiny closets and not enough cupboards or drawers. I didn’t know what to do. So I lived with it for a long time. I did the bare minimum to keep us from being swallowed alive and I lived with it.
Then came November 2008, and my rock bottom. I was so rock bottom, I even tried to quit writing. I was miserable and I realized it. I never felt like I had time to write, because there was so much to be done. But I wasn’t really doing any of it. I was just sitting around being overwhelmed by how much there was. So, for the first time, I sat down and made New Years Resolutions. If I’d realized my misery at any other time of year, they would have just been goals, but the end of the year is a good time for deciding things. I sat down and decided who I wanted to be, and figured out how to get there.
Who do I want to be? I want to be a woman who writes. Every day. I want to finish things. I want to take steps that lead to publication. I want to be fit and maybe even a little athletic. I want to work out and eat right and feel good about myself. I want to go to church every Sunday and show my daughter how to live for God. I want to have a house that is clean and organized and clutter-free and ready for company on a moments notice.
When I first began my journey toward this person that I want to be, it was hard. I wasn’t losing much weight, despite my efforts (thank you, PCOS). I managed to clean my house a bit (one room at a time), but I still felt like I was buried. I tried to make writing a priority but things would get hectic at work and there was still “so much to do” at home. It felt like the world was against me.
Over the course of 2009, I made progress, whether I noticed it at the time or not. I managed to lose 30 pounds, which felt like nothing while I was losing it, but added up over the course of the year. I finally (mostly) conquered my living room. I turned the ex-office where we happened to put the crib, into an actual bedroom for my daughter. I cleaned out the Pit of Despair (aka the spare bedroom) and turned it into both organized storage and an office for me to write in. For my birthday (in September), I gave myself a little makeover with a new hairstyle and new makeup from Mary Kay (all my old stuff was WAY beyond expiration). It didn’t feel like much progress at the time, but looking back, it adds up.
And 2009 was just the groundwork for 2010. So far this year, I’ve lost another almost 20 pounds. I’ve actually made it to every single meeting for my writers group (after two years as a member), and I’ve managed to make a little more organizational progress. Which leads me back to CHAOS.
CHAOS makes it hard to write. I sit down to write and immediately think of all the things I should be doing around the house. Even though it looks worlds better than it did a year ago, it’s still a clutter-filled mess.
I recently started homeschooling my daughter, teaching her colors, numbers and such and getting her used to “lessons” with Mommy. But I know how I am. I love books, paper, pens, crayons, all things school and office related. So I thought I should look into a way to keep things organized so I didn’t get out of hand. The led me to information about household binders, and that led me to the term Sidetracked Home Executives (SHEs). I wasn’t sure if that was me, but I looked closer and ended up at Flylady.net. And that’s when I saw my diagnosis. I was living with CHAOS. And the fact that someone else knew enough about how I felt to give it a name made me feel 50 shades of happy.
I looked at the Beginner Baby Steps and checked out a couple books. The first obstacle I ran into was a lack of bleach. I just don’t use it. After some research, I decided to go with vinegar anyway because I just don’t want to deal with dangerous bleach fumes, especially when I’m trying to get pregnant again. Next, I discovered that I didn’t have any Windex. I think the lack of necessary cleaning supplies is pretty accurate testimony to the state of my house. Especially since I didn’t realize I was missing them until I needed to use them.
But I’m feeling hopeful. CHAOS has a cure. Or at least a treatment. And I feel like a light has popped on over my head. Add the baby steps toward a great home to the work I’ve already done to the success I’ve had recently with my weight loss to the positive attitude that I’ve somehow developed to the writers retreat that will reignite my fire and it will all equal writing goodness in the future. I’m slowly learning how it feels to have success and it’s a little addicting.
In another three months, maybe I’ll be FLYing like a pro, and I think when that happens, other things will follow. Feeling good about myself, my house, and my family seems like the secret to finding out how to feel good about my writing. And it will also lead to feeling good about making time for it.
Edit: I completely spaced on putting all the links in. Fixed it now.