Containing Myself

I have this wonderful self-delusion that if things are organized, everything will be okay; nothing will change.

The origin is probably not too hard to understand when I realize that my parent’s home has always been neat and tidy.  The apartments and homes my wife and I have lived in since 1976 also have a similar need for everything in its place. Even our daughter’s have demonstrated in their own apartments the need for order and keeping things in place.  Somehow organizing and going from disarray to structure makes me feel better as if nothing bad can happen as long as everything is in its proper place.

Containing Chaos

Our recent 10 day “cook-a-thon” over the holidays created havoc with the little Tupperware tenants that live in a tall cabinet above the stove. We must have used every single container we have to preserve leftovers after each of our fabulous nourishing meals. If you know the feeling of opening the cabinet and a plastic waterfall comes tumbling down upon your head, you can understand why I needed to take action. As I set out to reorganize these containers in the cabinet, I was struck by the feeling that it gave me as I completed this task.

Why is organized a better feeling than chaos?

While sorting through the lids, shapes and colors of these plastic circles, squares and rectangles, I began thinking about my own container; my body, me, the Jeffrey Slater that comes in the handy 5’9” package. Is organizing stuff a metaphor for control? Why does having things neatly put away give me a certain comfort that life is in order and nothing will change if everything is put in its proper place. The illusion wasn’t lost on me nor was this drive to keep away the chaos.

Everything in it's proper place
Approaching my 57th birthday next month, my container is starting to feel some of the normal pangs of ageing.  After weekend walking, my knees feel sore. The bursitis in my right shoulder comes back from time to time too. I know, I am starting to sound like someone who resides in Florida.

Our containers are vessels for holding emotion. They allow us to store powerful special moments and the anticipation of the new ones. It is difficult to put a lid on those emotions or to stack them up like round plastic soup containers on a shelf.

I try to be reasonably disciplined and follow the motto of all things in moderation, I feel healthy and very fortunate. My recent annual physical provided me with just the right words from my Doctor: “You are a healthy young fella”.

Staving off change

Organizing is my shield helping to ward off the stress. It is also my ritual to stave off change.

Stress, that nasty word that everyone is trying to manage, can wreak havoc to the heart and the body. In my pretend world, being organized helps me to manage that stress as I multi-task my way through work and life. Having things in the right place provides me with an illusion that everything is okay if I just can put a lid on each container of activity. I accept the illusion and don’t try and fight it; I just give in and acknowledge these feelings. At the core of all of this is the desire to keep things as they are…contained so they don’t change.

My ears always perk up when I hear The Beatle’s song Across the Universe.

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me.
Jai guru deva, om
Nothing's gonna change my world,
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Nothing's gonna change my world.
Nothing's gonna change my world.

I recognize that impermanence is in fact the real gift.
I follow the The Dalai Lama on Twitter as he sends out daily messages that are wonderful reminders- like cold water splashed on the face- awakening me from my everyday illusions. Today’s message was so special since it captured exactly what I have been trying to say…

Dalai Lama

Awareness of impermanence and appreciation of our human potential will give us a sense of urgency that we must use every precious moment.

If you can contain yourself, may you find urgency in every precious moment in 2011. 

Happy New Year!