Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Good morning, Chaos. Sit down

Today I welcomed chaos into my life, and it was, well, better than I thought it would be. You may have heard the Chaos Muppet/Order Muppet theory of all personality. This is the theory in which we are all Bert or Ernie (or Kermit or Animal, choose your weapon) and that the sooner we understand this about ourselves and others, the better. Corollary 1 of this theory is that the Chaos Muppet should always drive (because the Order Muppet will give directions and, God forbid, should the Order Muppet be driving and need directions, the Chaos Muppet will DO IT WRONG and then bad things will happen. Very bad things. Name calling and fuming are the tip of the iceberg.  You seem like a pretty smart reader, so you've probably surmised by now that I am among the Order Muppets, the people who make trains run on time, find other people's lost keys, and figure out how to get seven impossible things done before breakfast. Being an Order Muppet is not the same as being a neat freak, mind you (cf, my desk) but it does mean that we live in a world of to do lists, created by brains that don't just keep calendars but have become one with them. These calendar brains are the matrix and the shield, the Very Efficient Person's Prophylactic against any unruly little feelings that might lead to disruption, change, or something else that won't fit in the boxes. They should probably add VEPP to the Myers-Briggs chart that tracks the coping mechanisms of all those acronyms, especially the weirdos with the Is and Fs and Ps.

So when I say that I welcomed chaos into my life today, I am using "today" in the specific sense of morning, and to be more precise, 1:30 AM, when it literally came into the house.  I woke to two voices, and thought perhaps my older son, who had just arrived home from college earlier that night, was up talking to my husband. It even could have been his "little" brother, who is now taller than I am and becoming a basso faster than you can say "holy hormone blast, Bat Man." The voices weren't necessarily cause for alarm. We do tag-team insomnia in this house, so who knows who might be on the couch reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead, playing Skyrim, stringing a bow and arrow, or looking for cookies at 1:30 in the morning.  With four on deck, all permutations can be simultaneously true some night-mornings. But this time, the voices belonged to my husband and Mr. Chaos, who had knocked on the door roughly half an hour earlier when my husband, bless him, answered.  I'll call him Mr. Chaos because I just adore this kid and have known him a long time, enough to know that his true name is Mr. Chaos. It's been a rocky road for him, and tonight's rock came in the form of a car wreck. (This is a case where the Chaos Muppet shouldn't drive, at least not without an Order Muppet on deck.) And this is also why a hysterical young man off his meds with a fresh traffic violation showed up at our door at 1:30, phone and keys Goddess knows where, car towed to East Egypt. TN, where believe me, you do not want to hear banjo music.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  None of that was really worth processing yet, because it was all the raw emotional chaos, the kind of thing I do not do or witness electively. This kid was spewing the panic, fear, hatred, self-loathing, and deep weariness that, not to be a Debbie Downer, we know is inside all of us. Mr. Chaos was doing all he could do to stay in his skin while it was all coming up, like vomit (and while we're on the subject, thank you, Mr. Chaos, for not actually vomiting on my stuff). My husband was great, listening, responding a little, calming where he could, and mostly, being there. (In case you haven't guessed this part yet, my husband is the Chaos Muppet in our relationship, though most days, his muppetude plays out on a manageable scale). Mr. Chaos had gotten loud enough to wake me where the knock did not, and that's when I came down. More listening, more chances to practice what Brene Brown describes as real empathy, which means taking his perspective, not judging, recognizing the other's emotions, and connecting with them. I'm not saying either one of us did it right, and I can't properly explain how I stumbled my way to something like empathy with Mr. Chaos, but it meant I had to feel with him, take his crazy, disorienting perspective, and just sit with it all. NOT my strong suit, as my superpower is that I can fix everything. And I will, so you better just go ahead and get the freak out of my way while I order your life for you.  But this was going to be about something else, because even with my superpower, I was both pretty sure I couldn't fix this one, and, more to the point, that fixing it wasn't the point of what was happening in this surreal space, which also happened to be my couch.  So, I tried to sit, to listen, without judgment. And you know what? I mostly did. It was totally wild, scary, and it also felt like I was doing something that I was very, very much supposed to be doing. And you know what else? I got back to sleep after it (a huge victory for a farm-league insomniac), as did Mr. Chaos. We covered him up with blankets, found him a pillow, kissed him on the forehead, and lo, sleep found him. Then, in the morning, we went about the thinking work of figuring out what happens next, what baby steps should and can only come after coffee, some eggs, and a shower. This surprisingly calm morning after, as it turned out, was GREAT time for me to use my superpower, but in a different way than I usually do.  Believe it or not, some people find my superpower off-putting. Even when it is operating at the peak of its wonderful efficiency, others have responded to me as though I am invading their space, judging, running their lives for them, giving unsolicited advice, or even being a bit of a bitch.  These people obviously have problems, which is precisely what I was trying to tell them in the first place, and if they had just held still and let me do everything....but I digress. Instead, this morning, the elemental functions of the superpower were sitting there, looking pretty useful as individual elements of support. Turns out, everyone in my house also possessed superpowers and found a way to use in a nicely concerted effort (insert small back pat here) while still letting someone else pull their own pants on themselves. Finding phone numbers, loaning a phone, encouraging a call to the shrink, giving a ride to the impounded car. And lo and behold, Mr. Chaos made it to his shift on time, which means that the rock of job loss is not going through what's left of his windshield today.

Now, it's just a few moments before my dear friends arrive for Thanksgiving. Somehow, the house is ready enough, the pies will still get made, takeout tonight seems like a stroke of hot-damn genius, and my heart is full and humming.  Thank you, Mr. Chaos. I think you're awesome and I am so glad you came to visit. Let the holidays begin.