The walls around my desk are covered with post-it notes: scraps of shiny, sparkly ideas that line my office like a magpie’s nest. One note bears the handwriting of my fishing partner, Ruth. It says:
It’s a useful way to examine many angles (and the many truths) of one thing: a job, a relationship, a goal, a problem, an unplugged phone. Here is the truth about my messy office.
The Apparent Truth (How does it look from the outside?) — Disaster. Thousands of small pieces scattered in loose piles. On one side of the room, a preponderance of books, paper, magazines, computer, words. On the other side, art. Oogly bits of disconnected stuff that I can’t bear to throw away. Twenty-six yards of ivory ribbon. An old peanut butter jar full of sea glass. Four unfinished wooden boxes. Rubber stamps, colored pencils, chalk, paints. Piles of colorful paper scraps. A shoebox of found images. Thirty-six tumbled marble tiles. A bag of yarn. Ten feet of cork.
The Real Truth (What it is it really like for me, on the inside?) — Comfortable and comforting chaos. I like being able to see everything at once. The rest of my house is spare and uncluttered; everything in cupboards and drawers and closets, put away for the sake of serenity. But in here, everything is out for the sake of creativity. Strange juxtapositions abound. A Peruvian quilt next to a ticking clock. A black and white checkered napkin holding 30 round, colorful marbles. Pictures of Kokopelli tucked into an angels calendar.
The Spirit Truth (If this were serving a spiritual purpose in your life, what would it be?) — A form of worship. I’m not a traditionally religious person, which is code for “I don’t know what the heck I believe but I’m trying to figure it out.” But the one thing I do believe, deeply and without question, is based on one verse in Genesis: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” To me, being created in the image of God means we (unlike the animals) have been given the unique gift of creativity, and we’re obligated to use it wisely and well. Squashing my creative spirit is wrong, even sinful, because it dismisses the most important gift God has given me. Conversely, using my creative spirit is almost a form of worship.
At the risk of getting all woo-woo, my messy office is like church for me. Here is where I create. Writing for me is a lot like prayer – an effort to understand, forgive, be grateful, grow. I need it the way I need air and food and water.
The Shadow Truth (What is the dark side, the thing you don’t want to admit you’re getting from this?) — Guilty pleasure. Everything I do in my office – writing, doing art, working on genealogy, staring out the window – feels like playing. I can breathe deeply in here. Every minute in my messy room is an immense indulgence, and it feels like guilty pleasure. Why do I feel guilty? I don’t know, and I wish I didn’t. But it’s hard to admit how happy I am when I’m all by myself playing in the middle of my creative mess.
The Fairy-Tale Truth (If this were in a fairy tale, known or unknown, what would it be?) –The Secret Garden, the story of a girl who is lonely and adrift until she discovers a hidden, untended flower garden. By tending and restoring the garden, she also tends and restores her heart. Now, I wouldn’t describe myself as lonely and adrift. But I don’t know any fulltime parent who doesn’t feel isolated and at times consumed by the world of home and children. This messy room is my secret untended garden. It’s where I remind myself that I still exist, where I can create beauty or just sit among the weeds and look at the sky.
The Unsaid Truth (What remains to be said?) — I want more, more, more. I don’t spend nearly enough time in here, and when I am in here I feel guilty, as if it’s stolen time. I need predictable time, to know when I can shut the door and for how long. I also need to give myself the gift of permission - to play, to be messy, to just be. I have the power to give these things to myself. Why don’t I do it?
And now … your turn. What is your truth?