Many of you know I am a lover of lists. I collect them. I write about them. I tape them to my bathroom mirror. I share them with my students and my readers. I take pleasure in these small packages of wit and wisdom. How to be happy. How to write well. How to deal with difficult in-laws. How to find peace. How to remove stains. I have eclectic taste when it comes to lists. Just start an article with “10 ways to. . .” and you’ve hooked me.
So this morning, I see this from the Huffington Post: “12 Reasons to Embrace the Chaos in 2014.” Now this is a title no list-lover could resist. God knows I need help in this arena. Who among us doesn’t? So, not realizing how close I was to my psychological edge (It is, after all, December 23–aren’t we ALL close to some edge??), I dove eagerly into this piece with my first cup of coffee. Big mistake, because I didn’t even make it to the fifth item before something cracked. Two days before Christmas, in true grumpy, bah-humbug fashion, I-just-cracked.
I slammed my computer closed and started ranting. Enough already with the advice on how to live a better, happier, more abundant, more gracious, more fulfilling, more whatever-fucking-life. I’m sick of all these pithy little lists that are supposed to shape me up, align me, and re-focus me in the good life. Seriously, is that going to happen? Like magic fairy dust, this list is potent enough to transform even the most confused and undisciplined among us? Enough with these lists, OK? I’m sick of them. Sick, I tell you.
And there’s one particular kind of list I would like to bitterly rail against at this point. That’s the list that starts with “10 Qualities that ____________ People Embrace.” Fill in the blank with whatever personal goal you’re working on. I’ve seen this particularly insidious approach a lot these days, giving me advice on the unique characteristics of people who are “thin” or “peaceful” or “successful” or “financially secure” or “happily married.” I’ve read so many of these lists that I’ve developed a fairly severe inferiority complex from spending so much time comparing myself to these perfect people who embrace these amazingly wonderful, healthy, and disciplined qualities.
Do I sound bitter? Bitterness is the noxious gas that rises up when a long-time list-lover loses faith in the tradition.
I know this is shocking, but it’s true.
So back to the list that cracked my seemingly intractable faith. I guess this one got to me because I’ve been reading a lot on how a focused mind and an organized work space pave the way for our best creative work to emerge. Over the years, I’ve clung to these tiny mantras of hope as reminders of strategies, habits, and attitudes for doing good work. Then I see this list today from Bob Miglani who says, “Oh just forget getting organized and embrace the chaos. Life is uncertain. Deal with it.”
Deal with it?
Do you hear that deep, guttural sort of groaning-like sound? That’s the sound of the tectonic plates of my existential foundation beginning to shift and crack. Watch out, there’s sure to be an earthquake any day now. Yep, I can feel it coming; full effect of this quake should be felt around Dec. 25.
I think I’d better get to the beach as soon as possible.
Whatever it is you’re celebrating this time of year, whatever good reason you have for throwing yourself (begrudgingly or joyfully) into the swirl and chaos of the season, hang on tight, breathe deeply, and by all means, avoid any list that tries to sum up the meaning of life. (Stick to lists on how to remove wine stains from your tablecloth—there you will find the true path to happiness).
Happy Holidays from LifeArt Studio!