Unmasked: Living by organized chaos

 

ID-10027930.m_bartoschFor the second time, someone commented they perceived me as organized and an ‘on-time’ person because of my methodical approach to situations.  I thought that it was time to put the record straight.

I am actually inherently a befuddled person.

I was born into a family who live by disorganized chaos. I have inherited many annoying traits and habits. Forever losing keys, poor time management, careless mistakes in crucial work, forgetting appointments, forgetting to pay bills, messy desk, going back twice to check whether the iron is off. You get the picture. Unorganized chaos. That was how I grew up. That is what I fight against being every day of my life.

I determined early on as a young adult that if I was to achieve anything worthwhile I would have to organize my chaos. This is how I have done that:

1) Take responsibility

I alone am responsible for who I am, not my genetics or upbringing. As being organized does not come naturally to me, I have to make it happen.

2) Write out lists.

I do not make lists because I am organized. I am organized because I make lists.

3) A careful methodical approach of categorizing and prioritizing.

The secret of me achieving things is not being a superwoman and doing a million things all at once but rather categorizing, prioritizing, shelving less important tasks into the background (or rubbish bin) and doing just a few important tasks each day.

4) Clearing my in-tray every day

Remaining ‘less important tasks’ are stored neatly in to-do lists / trays, drawers, appointment books, or wherever; out of the way of my central field of vision. Yet I am safe in the knowledge they can be recalled when required. A bonus is I even have a tidy desk!

5) Allowing myself enough time to complete tasks.

This is crucial. I estimate the time I think I need to accomplish something, then double it. Then I double it again to allow for extra things that inevitably always crop up, time for me to organize my disorganization, procrastination, and time for ‘faffing’ about.

6) Don’t panic when I still run out of time.

I know that no matter how organized I am, Hostadter’s law always applies: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.” This is usually when I drop less important things such as being tidy, punctual or perfect and I stop less essential functions such as eating or sleeping until I finish whatever needs to be finished.

7) Gradually working through the steps of getting things done.

I feel a sense of accomplishment when I cross tasks off my lists, even small insignificant tasks and small seemingly insignificant steps. It gives me a feeling of moving forward. This is important for complex projects with many steps and bits to them.

8) A place for everything

If I have a place for everything (and remember to always put things there) then I am less likely to lose keys, scissors, stapler etc. Remembering to put them there is the hard part.

9) Out of sight out of mind

When all the above fail, I shelve things into boxes and cupboards ‘to sort out later’.

10) Spring clean

Every so often I go through my ‘sort out later’ boxes and my ‘less important tasks’ shelved to a later date that never comes. At this point I realize all the things I thought I might get round to doing I never will and throw most in the literal or metaphorical rubbish bin.

11) Buy clothes that do not need ironing.

Then I do not need to remember to turn the iron off.

That is how I live by organized chaos which, I assure you, is a huge improvement on disorganized chaos. And within that space of organized chaos I have managed to achieve some remarkable things such as raising four beautiful children, running a business, and active involvement in the community.

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Ticking the boxes

 

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My last post, alluding to my tendency to often being late, was actually about whether I had lived true to my values. It drew some interesting responses. One that surprised me was from a follower who had perceived me as an ‘always on time’, well-organized ‘super-woman’. The comment made me wonder who the real me is and what masks I had been hiding behind since being alone. After my husband left me I courageously worked through my grief, detached emotionally from him and made steps towards forgiveness. I perfected the art of living alone and embracing each day in all its glory. From six months after he left for about a year, I remained in that space with my life compartmentalized.

The stoic everyday me

I went about my everyday life in the scheduled daily routine I created. I would rise, watch the sunrise, write in my journal and go for a walk before heading to work, four days a week. I put aside the angst surrounding my divorce and pretended life was normal. I interacted with staff in a normal fashion and focused on work. I socialized on a casual basis. I connected with friends one-on-one for coffee or lunch. After work I would return home to my evening routine of dinner and relaxation. Regularly I would ring my family and friends.

Mother

I desperately yearned for what I had lost, my intact family unit. I tried to put it back together. I regularly drove four hours to see my eldest son, his wife and my grand-daughter. My two younger children lived in the same area and I saw them often. I would mark dates on my calendar to keep me going until I saw them again. I came alive when I saw them. I put my heart and soul into being mother and grandmother. I would cook, bake, read stories to my grand-daughter and play this role I loved. When I was on my own again, I would fall flat and feel very sad.

Adventurer

I underwent ‘experiential pastimes’ that one is supposed to do when carving a new life. I put that in quotation marks because I was not craving that at all. I did it because it was expected I would want to travel and try new things after my world had upended. So I tried. Inside I was craving family so I combined ‘experiences’ with being with family; in Sydney, visiting my second son in Canada and attending a friend’s wedding in Ireland. Each time I felt on shaky emotional ground when away from home.

Mud trudging

The fourth me was (and is) trudging through mud of the divorce and property settlement. This has been horrid. At first I tried to avoid it. Then I tried to deal with it on the side of my life. That didn’t work. I felt resentful every single day I had to deal with it. Eventually I gave up two days a week for two years in order to do what had to be done to get through it. I pretended it was simply another part of my life. Some people study for a degree. Some people belong to a craft club. Some people write books. I trudged through the mud of our property settlement.

Soul searching

This is discovering who I really am. This started with me writing my journal daily, blogging then reading philosophy. And self-help books. Lots of them. My reflection became more and more intense as I delved into the core of my inner self.

Ticking boxes

After a year, I looked back to what I had been doing. I realized I had been ticking boxes.

I have worked through my grief. Tick.
I have detached emotionally from my husband. Tick.
I have spent time in nature. Tick.
I have enjoyed the moments of today. Tick.
I have spent time with loved ones. Tick.
I am contributing to society by working. Tick.
I have experienced new things. Tick.

Ticking boxes worked.
In those first four roles I remained in a relative state of calm.

However, each time I visited the fifth me, that part of me trying to find the real me, I was confronted with a question I could not answer.

Which role is the real me?

 

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A moment in time.

“I am invariably late for appointments… I’ve tried to change my ways but the things that make me late are too strong, and too pleasing.”  ― Marilyn Monroe

 

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I was planning to visit the children in Hobart, a four hour drive away. The spreadsheet file I had been working on had to be sent to my accountant by 11 am. When I checked it, I realized it had been corrupted. I spent an hour retrieving the previous saved version and retracing my steps to get it to the required finished product to send on. There were a few unexpected queries from work that needed my urgent attention. Time was marching on. The house looked like a tornado had hit it. I still had to have my morning walk, shower, dress and pack.To top it off I was fighting this tremendous pressure in my chest to make sure that I got away on time so that I could be there on time. This made me frazzled. As if reading my mind the children each sent me a text, urging me to make sure I left on time, to make sure I would be there at the appointed time for dinner. I became anxious at the texts. This was not a child’s graduation, a wedding, catching a plane, or a medical appointment. This was not a national emergency. This was dinner. When the third text came through, everything descended down on me and I sat down on the floor and cried.

It was a descent of my own making. I had not been able to put myself above the moment. I had let it get to me. I has lost control of this moment because of all the other moments that had gone before. It was all the other moments. They all came flooding back.

My life had always been that we must be on time.

I had lost so much of myself over the years due to worrying about being on time and often not quite making it anyway because of lost time in the worrying. ‘Come on, get ready. Quick, quick.’ I would never feel quite ready and would become flustered in feeling not quite ready, applying make-up hurriedly, leaving behind a mess in the kitchen, arriving to wherever-it-was-so-important-to-be-on-time all anxious and stressed.

When being on time counts, such as catching a plane or attending a medical appointment or attending to a national emergency, I can and do prioritize being on time. At other times, other things are more important to me. My priorities differ.

My preference is to always be there for people; either late or on time, I will be there. My preference is to finish what needs to be done over here so that when I get over there, I can fully engage in the moment of over there. My preference is to remain calm so when I arrive I can relax and enjoy the moment of now. My preference is to calm the distressed child, attend to the unexpected accident, take the phone call from a friend in need, mop up the spilled milk then try, as best as I am able, to get there on time. My preference is to attend to whatever I feel is most important, to take in my stride those ‘things’ that get in the way of plans and schedules. My preference is to remain calm and, if too many important things crop up, slip the ‘being on time’ to a lower priority – and not worry about it.

My values and priorities are important too.

The point is not whether being on time is a good value to strive for or not. The point is, it is not my value. It is a value that belonged to someone else. I became stressed and anxious by not living up to a value that belonged to someone else.

The reason that I was feeling upset now, was not because I may be late, or because I was overwhelmed by too much to do before getting away. I was grieving for those times I had violated my own values, for those times I had not taken the time to calm the distressed child, or mopped up the spilled milk, or taken the phone call from my friend and for those times when I was not there when I should have been because I was rushing to be on time to somewhere else for someone else.

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Foundations of Freedom – find my voice and speak my truth

” I was going to die sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you… Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest its personal. And the world will not end. And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will fall in love with your own vision, which you may never have realised you had… And at last you’ll know with surprising certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” Audre Lorde

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Here is part of what I wrote in my last post:

“We now have the freedom to vote, choose, express opinion, work and earn money, associate or assemble with those of our choosing, become educated, or be elected into positions of power… We are now free to pursue whatever we desire in terms of our dress, our leisure activities and our relationships with each other – in both the coming together or the breaking apart.”

I do not believe all that is true. It appears to be true. In reality it is not all true. I believe all members of our society do not have all those freedoms (of speech, expression, opinion, assembly, education etc). I believe every person in inter-personal relationships or in social groups do not have the same freedoms or power to speak as others. I believe they should have. One of my goals is to find my voice and to express my opinion and my beliefs on that. This is something that is burning within my soul. My desire to speak those truths.

That has become part of my purpose:

My purpose is to find my voice and to speak my truth.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbkOZTSvrHs

 

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Foundations of freedom – freedom to do

“And the moment came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. “ Anais Nin

ID-10043380.digitalartWe are the lucky generation. Our forefathers handed us freedom from: freedom from slavery, tyranny and oppression. The next generations gave us our freedom to: freedom to vote, choose, express opinion, work, associate with those of our choosing, become educated, or be elected into positions of power. That has been followed by social, cultural and sexual revolutions since the 1960s. We are now free to pursue whatever we desire in terms of our dress, our leisure activities and our relationships with each other – in both the coming together or the breaking apart.

It seems to me each generation has wanted more freedom than the previous and, whereas in previous generations ‘freedom’ did mean the true sense of the word in freedom from oppression, our modern generation has put the emphasis on having freedom to do whatever we want. We want it all and we want it now. This is supposed to be something that we all desire. When my husband first left, people would say to me ‘now you are free to do whatever you want‘. When repeated back, that advice would catch me in the throat. Taking ‘freedom’ was foreign to me as I was craving stability and structure. I also saw it as being selfish. I thought I still had responsibilities and obligations to fulfill.

It has taken me nearly three years to understand that I don’t.

While it appeared I did, it really was an obligation to my own inner code of responsibility. I really did not have obligations to fulfill, except to myself. I am truly free to do whatever I want. Looking at it another way, I had to a degree been putting perceived responsibilities and obligations in my own path because of not knowing what to do with my freedom if I had it. It was easier to keep doing what I had been doing, even though painful, rather than taking my own freedom and basking in its sunshine. I could now undo my own imposed restraints of responsibility.

The big question now is not whether I have the freedom to what I want but rather, now that I know I do (nearly) have that freedom, what do I want to do with it?

That’s scary.

As I sat with a blank page on that question, a few overarching ideas of what ‘freedom to do’ means to me came to mind.

I have the freedom to live my own way.

I am free of external restrictions.

I have the freedom to impose my own moral code such as ‘first, do no harm’. As long as I impose it myself it is not a restraint, it is free-will. I cannot enslave myself. With no external restrictions, only internal ones, I have the freedom to think, speak and act the way I want.

I have the freedom to choose to be responsible for my family and friends. When I act out of devotion, there are no constraints – no matter what the responsibilities require of me.

I have the freedom to be part of my family, children and grand-children’s lives.

I have the freedom to be by myself whenever I want.

I have the freedom to choose my own direction in life and to fit that in with my own life’s purpose which I alone shall choose and I may take as long as I want to make that choice.

I have the freedom to choose my own goals by my own free-will and to work towards those goals unimpeded.

I have the freedom to choose my own attitude to develop a capacity by education, training or resolve to overcome any obstacle or impediment in my way.

I have the freedom to impose limitations, moral codes or constraints (by whatever definition) if that makes my new direction more comfortable. If my constraints are based upon my own goals or values – knowing where I stand will give me the liberty to act in complete freedom.

That is not so scary. That is all exciting …

Now to begin.

 

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Foundations of freedom – freedom to celebrate even when there seems little to celebrate

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As indicated in my last post, I decided to stop for a while. The problem is when you are trudging through mud and you decide to stop for a while, because you are in mud, you start sinking again. So while the concept of allowing myself time to have a rest seemed to be a good idea at the time, the reality was doomed to failure.

Doomed to failure because it gave me time to think and face some realities which distressed me.

Doomed to failure because of how I was defining success and failure.

I read a post this morning from Val with a quote that is self-explanatory and which opened my eyes.

“If you build a house it takes a few days, a few weeks or a few years. And everyone can see the result. But when we create something in the spiritual realm neither you nor anyone else can see anything. So nothing is certain. Nothing is clear. And you become unsettled, uncertain and assailed by doubts. And that is why after a while you want to abandon everything and do what everyone else does: Throw yourself into an activity where everyone can see a result.” Omraan Mikhael Aivanhov

The quote got me thinking. This ‘trudging through mud’ (AKA ‘dealing with the divorce settlement’) appeared to be getting me nowhere and was taking a lot of effort for no reward.

That is because I was looking at ‘reward’ as how our modern society judges rewards – in terms of success, fame, fortune, or glorious materialistic or creative achievement.

So today I have taken my thinking right back to very early after separation when I made a resolution to myself. I resolved that I would not let this transition period of my life destroy who I was inside of me or crush the values that I wanted to live by. I made an aim that day to reaffirm those values and strive to live by them. That was my goal.

My reward today, still within this ‘transition period’, is to know that I am still on that path and still successfully striving towards that goal. At the end of the day, if that is my greatest achievement, that is a worthwhile one to have.

“The goal we seek, and the good we hope for, comes not as some final reward but as the hidden companion to our quest. It is not what we find, but the reason we cannot stop looking and striving, that tells us why we are here.”
Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter

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Foundations of freedom – freedom to stop

 

ID-100179203.Stuart MilesYou may have thought from my last post that I was ready to move on to bigger and better things such as solving world poverty or finding world peace. However, I have decided this week it was just time to stop for a while. I have taken some time out to bring a little normality into my life by doing such things as having my hair cut, reading, spending some time sitting in the sunshine (even though it is winter here, it is sunny today) and generally doing nothing.

I have the freedom to do that.

Having said that, I do bear in mind the thoughts of a great mind:

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” Nelson Mandela.

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