Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Muse Is Talking Again

Sometimes things pop out of my head, and I wonder to myself "Where did that come from?" because it doesn't sound like something I would say at all. It sounds too intelligent. So for lack of a better explanation, I'll just blame it on the Muse.

My friend Miranda wrote a post at Studio Mothers detailing her improving efforts at finding balance in her life, and how she finally came to terms with all the "shoulds" in her life and moved them aside to allow for the "have tos" and the "wants tos." In my comment to her, I wrote: Things just fall into place when you give them the space to move. Just watch and see how often it happens. And then I sat back and thought, "Well, damn. That's a really profound idea. but was that comment for her or for me?"

Here's another example of how the random things I see on TV whirl around in my head until they morph into some beneficial life lesson. This past weekend, I got stuck watching a Hoarders marathon. If you've never seen this show, it chronicals the miserable living conditions of people who literally refuse to get rid of anything. The episode I had the misfortune to see this weekend was about a Level 5 Hoarder (the worst kind), as evidenced by the mummified remains of not one, but two, of her cats that were discovered buried under several years of garbage in her home. Normal people don't live like this, but normal people whose homes are not a sea of garbage, would notice 1) their cat was missing, 2) the horrifying stench of decay, and 3) if, God forbid, two dead cats were found in their house, a normal person would have a huge reaction about it. Level 5 Hoarder said something along the lines of "Oh, a dead cat. Huh..."

And I got to thinking about how this woman seemed emotionally paralyzed... the "stuff" in her life, physical and emotional, had become so overwhelming, it had literally rended her semi-catatonic. There's a lot of stuff that can clutter up a life, and even though I'm no Level 5 hoarder, I do find myself stymied by things to the point that I'm too weighed down by everything around me to feel like I'll ever get clear of it.

In addition to watching Hoarders, Tom and I like to watch shows like Clean Sweep where people with clutter problems get rid of their extraneous stuff and have professional organizers and designers re-do their homes. There are always a lot of tears on these shows, because invariably, someone's got some emotional dependence on the "stuff" in their lives, and over time its become their identity. A lot of times the professional organizers play pseudo-psychiatrists, and tell these people that getting rid of all this literal emotional baggage can be extremely freeing. These people are stuck in this continual emotional loop, and creating the space for new emotions to come in will break this viscious cycle. I can relate to this, too.

My family has always been the cluttery/hoard-y type, and despite my best efforts to clear things out of my house, I cannot go up to Asheville without bringing a trunkload of stuff home that they think I might "need". It is maddening, and no matter how much I tell them that I don't want the stuff, they persist. My grandmother even likes to play a game (I can only call it that) every time I visit called "What of mine do you want?" What I want is to bash my head, slowly and methodically, into a wall. What I need is less stuff, not more.

I need space to think about important stuff and space to enjoy what I like and what I find beautiful. I'm not a naturally organized person--never have been, and when you're a writer, in addition to all the other "stuff" around you, there's also a sea of papers drifting constantly in your wake. I probably spend a couple hours a day "straightening up" and another couple of hours thinking "Where does this go?" "What should I do with this? "Do I need this?" And the answer is always "nowhere," "nothing," and "no." That's why it's out bugging me. It has no place in my life. All this thinking about stuff I don't even care about is taking away time I can be thinking of things that matter. Like writing my book and enjoying the space I'm writing it in.

On Studio Mothers, there are many many conversations about finding balance in order to juggle all the things that artists who are mothers juggle. "Finding Balance" seems to be the buzzword everywhere these days--but it's not something I can relate to. I feel perfectly balanced within myself--it's the clutter that tips me one way or the other. It's the physical, then the emotional clutter that starts to stagnate my creativity. Things start to pile up--obligations, worries, weight, doubts, etc.

It feels good to get a blank slate every now and then.

Which might explain why I am going gangbusters on my new novel. I'm in the process of doing some early spring cleaning, I've been dieting since New Year's and am wearing a pair of jeans that I couldn't button in December, my book is a "well-ventiliated," loosely woven tapestry of ideas. Suddenly I can breathe. Everywhere. My house, my body, my book.

There's space to move and now I can sit back and watch the pieces fall into place.


  1. I hoard too - up to a point. But I also have clearing frenzies every now and again. But certainly I can identify with that harried feeling, when everything feels like it's piling up to become a huge to-do list. I think it can be hard to keep everything in perspective and not let what's still to do drive you mad.

  2. awesome post, brittany. that was a profound comment you left on miranda's post and it seems to have made it's way right back to just what you needed to hear. me, i believe i'm going more insane by the day. :-)

  3. congratulations, brittany.

    i feel very similarly much of the time. my mother even sent a bunch of old stuff for christmas since we didn't travel to them this year. amazing how families invest so much in things that if we saw them in someone else's house, we'd be like, why the heck do they hang onto that old piece of crap? my parents aren't level 5 (i saw that ep, too) but they definitely have issues with 'i might need this someday' or 'it was my mother's'


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