Those of you who know me know that I tend towards obsessive compulsive disorder. I can't wear my wedding ring right now due to skin irritation caused by excessive hand washing. I don't touch most hard surfaces that I have not cleaned myself. Oil-based things make my heart pound with anxiety. Et cetera.
That's why this afternoon, as the day is beginning to wind down into night here in the east, I was shocked at my own reaction to our messy house. It's nothing too egregious--a New York Times in shambles on the coffee table, the blanket that's usually folded neatly over the back of the couch is wadded up in a ball on the love seat, the kitchen wears dirty dishes and an empty coffee pot dotted with condensation. My fall candles have been burning all month long and they've taken on that dilapidated look that means they're about to sputter out. Cute husband's computer is on the living room floor atop a pile of giant law books.
But something about the mess is refreshingly homey, as though we've achieved in mess what I haven't been able to in my premeditated decorating. I can walk from end to end of our little abode and see what we've been doing all day. I can peek in the kitchen and recount the warm cream cheese inside the pita bread that I ate for breakfast, and be reminded again and again of the special treat that is the Sunday NY Times (did you know it's gone up to 6 bucks!).
When things are not perfect, the truth of life emerges. We struggle to do things right, to make our lives turn out just as we always imagined them; we try again and again to help people that ultimately cannot be helped or changed, and still things go wrong, or perhaps just keep going in the not-so-perfect way they've been going. Sometimes we find a new path, sometimes we stay on the one we're on with a new outlook or a renewed, if small, sense of hope. And not even so much hope that things will change, but that we can live our lives in acceptance of how they are. And in this place our stories are born and told.