I was driving in to the city recently and listening to Steering By Starlight a book on tape when the narrator (author Martha Beck) said something so meaningful to me that I had to pull over and write it down.
She was talking about her “Inner Lizard” – also known as our reptile or fear brain. The “Inner Lizard’s” job is to broadcast survival fears. We as primitive man had to deal with the possibility of being eaten by tigers or gored by rhinos. Life was dangerous in a very real way. Now, our Inner Lizard projects survival fears and our brains make stuff up…because there’s little chance of being eaten by tigers or gored by rhinos in everyday life, right?
Anywhoooo….when Martha Beck’s “Inner Lizard” really gets going, often she’ll try to distract herself by doing something, anything, to try and get her mind to stop the worrying loop of fear. Specifically, the author said, “…I was cleaning my office, calming myself by putting disordered things in order…”
I felt like I’d been struck by lightning. Seriously. I had an “ah-ha” moment right there in the car. And a conversation I’d had almost 10 years ago flashed into my brain. A facilitator at a weekend retreat had asked me, “Angie, what if you’re actually a wildly creative person who learned how to be organized in order to cope with life?”
And here’s the God’s honest truth…ready?
Since I was a little girl, I have used the act of organizing things to soothe myself. To bring order to my environment. It’s MY way of self-medicating.
See, I’m a Navy brat. I’ve moved dozens of times since I was six months old. Up until high school, I had very little stability in my outside life, though my family and “stuff” were loving and comfortable.
I’m realizing – and my transition in business is playing this out – that while I’m great at organizing stuff – it isn’t my total thing. It isn’t my genius work. It’s my coping mechanism!
Now, it does serve my clients, because when we can get their office, calendar, and email under control, they FEEL better.
It doesn’t solve the deeper issues, though. It doesn’t answer the soul questions – and that’s what I’m after now. The soul work. The root causes. And as my client said today, “Angie, you go after the heart of the matter right away.”
Gentle reader, are you using “getting organized” as an excuse to self-soothe, too? Do you think about getting organized, or actually start to organize part of your life, as a way to avoid thinking about something else? In order to not think about a big scary project, or how much you detest your busy schedule, or how exhausted you are from the pace you’ve set for yourself?
Sure, being able to see the top of your desk will be awesome for a little while. But when the uncomfortable feelings around work or life creep back, so will the papers…
And yet, there’s still value in getting organized. There’s value in simplifying.
P.S. Can I share my favorite thing that I used to organize when I was a kid? My grandpa made me a five story Barbie house, complete with garage, elevator (with a pull string) and a rooftop patio. I had gobs of furniture and used to make decorations for each floor. Every few weeks, I’d pull everything out of the house, create new decorations, and put the house the back together. I LOVED the finished product, where everything was in place. Disorder to order – even at eight years old!