Let us for one further brief moment return to the analogy of the ‘coat hanger’ referred to in an earlier blog. We do, of course, hang different garments and items of clothing on different coat hangers and thus arrange our wardrobe according to need, mood, occasion, temperature and season. When not in use or being worn, we are most unlikely to simply leave them in an unseemly heap in the middle of the room or of the wardrobe or cupboard. Rather do we order and arrange and hang then ready for use on another day or at another season. So in life: we may well be required to adopt as well as to adapt to different routines. Nevertheless, it is, as ever, their inherent ‘shape’ – with all that it entails by way of confidence and potential for prediction and control – that lies at the very heart of future achievement and success.
Having responded to the call for a credible and viable framework within which new and even unexpected life-events might be incorporated, we can now go on to perceive that such an approach can and often does yield other unexpected benefits, therapeutic in nature. Like so many who from time to time were required to work from home, I did for many years adapt a particular room in our house for the purposes of a study. In my case and even now at a little over eighty years of age, tidiness in such matters is still a sure sign of disuse and since – even when in days gone by I was away from home from the early morning until late in the evening, my study was…is…rarely, if ever, tidy.
I have always preferred a large desk surface on which to spread working papers and the like. Other items such as reference books and similar volumes in use at the time tend to surround me on the floor. In rooms which, over the years, have accommodated at least half again as many of the contents as it might reasonably be expected to take, I leave you to imagine the regular scene of mounting disorder and untidiness. Of course – and not surprisingly – there is a limit as to how long such mayhem can be allowed to continue unheeded and unchecked (and that, in days now gone, was usually when my darling late wife, Chris, would appear on the scene). How I so very much wish it were still so! Therefore from time to time, it becomes necessary to restore order and control from the growing and enveloping chaos. Anyone who ever decided to clear an untidy and cluttered garage or loft space or whatever, will be all too familiar with the feeling of inertia that hangs around one in such moments of good intention like a late autumn mist. Any other task seems to be decidedly preferable to the one now looming. In the end of course, “needs must” and a start is made. Papers are filed; books returned to their shelves and other ‘debris’ lying around on the desk and other surface areas (including the floor) are cleared away. Waste paper baskets etc. are filled and emptied several times over.
Almost imperceptibly at first, then increasingly so (as order and that much pleasanter atmosphere of control returns) inertia is gradually replaced by a veritable surge in energy and enthusiasm for the task in hand. Somehow, as we increasingly enter into the spirit of things, we could in fact continue and extend such activity by clearing another room or cluttered area. Or we may even decide to reorder or rearrange the entire contents of the room. And so once more the feeling of well-being at the newly emerging order is restored in fullest measure.
Now apply the above to daily living; and its truth and applicability becomes so easy to comprehend. In my case, the overall contents of the room have in themselves, barely increased nor decreased (apart, that is, from the removal of the scrap). I, most decidedly, am not a “thrower outer”. (I am a “putter-inner”, except, that is, for the fact that there isn’t so much as a ‘cubic foot’ of space in the room for new items). No! What has changed is my perception, based on the clearing and reordering exercise, and it is this, which has fast ‘fueled’ fresh confidence, enthusiasm and an altogether greater feeling of being at ease with the place. Once again, my study has become a congenial and supportive environment within which to work.
When, in somewhat similar fashion we make time, find the will and muster the courage to deal with disorder and its besetting and paralyzing mental and psychological inertia, we become similarly empowered. Slowly but surely we regain that revitalization sense of control and comfort as inwardly we begin to renew and heal. However, before moving too far ahead, there remains an important ‘discussion’, which we should have and which I believe may prove helpful concerning further early reactions to bad news. How do – can – we effectively manage the painful transition from the numbness of shock and “stunned disbelief”, through anger, guilt and beyond? That will be the subject of my very next blog posted on this website.