Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Imposing structure

For most of my time as an adult, I've had a push-me/pull-you relationship with structure in my life.

I grew up with external structures - school, lessons, band camp, summer play rehearsal schedules - but few internal structures were ever imposed.

The result was that I cultivated an aversion - or maybe just a bad attitude - towards internal controls. I had the cookie when I wanted it, took the day off if it felt right and did the dishes only when I found I couldn't stand not having the sink available to me.

I threw my clothes on the floor, rarely tidied up after projects and couldn't get rid of all things I was waiting to "get to." There was no one there to answer to, no reason to make the effort, so I lived a cluttered, messy life ruled by a lack of internal control (read: "spoiled").

I have spent the past 7 months or so in the company of someone who is 89% internal control, and it's been transformative for me. His home is sparse and clean, and I feel a marked change in my stress:calm ratio when I arrive there.

Realizing what a change the environment had on me, I brought what I've learned into my own home.

As you know, I started my own active de-accessioning in spring. The immediate result was a home with fewer things precariously stored. This means that the things I want to get to are less of a hassle, which means I get to those things more - which is its own reward. And there isn't a rumpled pile of whatnot taunting me from the precarious place I pulled whatever it was out into the light of day.

It's been like a reverse Diderot Effect, instead of upgrading my environs to match my dressing gown, I have begun - almost unconsciously - undertaking actions that build upon this new structure.

I now make my bed daily and hang up my nightclothes.
I transformed my living room into a knitting and sewing space - decorating with the tools and materials of textile play - banishing knick-knacks and replacing the souvenirs of the life I wanted to have lived with the artifacts of things I actually experienced.

The mental quiet coming from all this change is growing exponentially, and unlike other changes of habit and lifestyle, these seem to be more organic and easy to take root - like volunteer shoots that pop up in a garden: unexpected, appreciated, and eventually cultivated to thrive.


Beth said...

Beautifully written. And equally inspiring. I am a structure person. I thrive on it.

And, currently, I'm in a bit of chaos. It throws me off . . . makes me tense and unsure.

But alas, until summer is over, I feel I will live like this. Only in the fall will I have the time, unencumbered by persons who follow me and deconstruct things faster than I can even logically think of how to put them together.

So, for now, I must ignore and feel your new structure and dream of mine, soon to come!

sarah said...

It's interesting finding the balance between the safety of structure and the exitement of chaos.

I'm seeking more structure now - but knowing full well not to shoot for the moon, as chaos is my natural state.

It's about finding the best environment for different aspects of life.