October 2003 

Managing Chaos

Isn't it funny how we all seem to look at other people's lives and say, "Wow, it must be nice to live like that, they have it all figured out."  Last week I received an email from a woman who boldly admitted that she wished her life was more like mine (i.e.. financially well off, successful career, care free days).  When I read that I snorted, almost shooting hot coffee out my nose.  I must admit that I do it too.  I look at people I admire from afar and say, "how nice to live like that."  Not that I would trade what I have for anything, I pride myself on having created a life that I wanted (I work hard at it).  But I am far from feeling care-free.  Sometimes I wake up and say, "When am I going to feel like the adult who has everything under control?  Everything organized."  Somehow I can never keep up with all that I have to do, I feel like I am playing catch up a lot of the time.  

This week I have decided to tackle something I have been avoiding for too long, my finances.  When you push something off for a while it turns into a large and hairy ogre whose shadow hangs over everything.  I have found that when you actually start to make money it becomes a lot harder to manage it.  In my field you have to balance your funds over the times when you have no cash flow, it happens all the time.  Last month was particularly tight.  And you have to be very careful not to spend everything that comes in, because some of it has to go to pay taxes.  That requires a lot of organization, which I struggle with.  Actually, I suck at it.  To be fair I was never really taught how to manage my finances.  And I have never seen a course on "How to Manage a Non Regular Income -(or) Dealing with the Fits and Spurts".  (If you have let me know).  I seem to have this pattern of being so completely organized and efficient for around 5 months of the year, after that it starts to go downhill, eventually snowballing into a large overwhelming pile.  By that time you feel so ashamed, because just a few months ago you were the "Queen of finances", telling everyone how wonderfully organized you were, and giving them tips on how to do the same.

One thing I've noticed is that when I start to avoid something in my life, it manifests into my physical world in some way.  Usually in the form of a mess in some corner of my house.  For the last six months there have been piles of paper forming in my studio.  I didn't notice them at first, sort of pretended they weren't there.  But now as I begin to face the books, I find myself needing to clean out everything.  Give myself a new fresh breathable space.  This is really the basis for Feng Shui, that your emotional world relates directly to your physical one in many ways.  I don't think it's a coincidence that I feel the urge to do both things at once.   I love the idea of purging months of build up of papers and magazines.  I even bought some new brightly colored bins from Ikea for the task.  Ever notice how when you are about to start a new creative project you all of the sudden feel this huge urge to clear your workspace?  This is apparently because the right brain requires "breathing room" to function.  I used to wonder if this was just a form of procrastination, but now I actually embrace it as part of the process of creation.

I am learning that I may never realize that earlier vision of becoming an adult and having everything under control.  Like the perception we have of other people's lives being better than our own, it doesn't exist.  That is why I love reading about other people who are running their own business.  Hearing how they deal with the daily chaos helps me to feel normal.  We all have it.  I know that at some level I will have to ask for help in certain areas, (I have had a hard time finding an accountant that I feel comfortable with).  The goal now is to make things better, more manageable.  So I begin my descent into my own chaos one little piece at a time.  The deeper I go into it I realize it may not be as scary as I thought.  The present moment is a lot less intimidating than a perception of the future that does not actually exist.  It all begins with me turning on my laptop and opening the accounting program.

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