Those Darling Details

Lyn Thurman's "Writing the Wisdom of Your Soul," Day 16: The Devil

In those darling details, the Devil awaits, don’t you know?

At last count, I have at least four primary email addresses and another three secondary addresses. I have fourteen RSS feeds to different blogs. I am the owner of four different blogs (three of which have been woefully neglected this year). We have a many-bedroomed, many-bathroomed, many-closeted home. (Seriously, it’s large enough that when I suggested to my two elementary school age sons that they share a room and make the other one into a study/playroom, they looked at me like I had completely lost any sense of reality and even asked, “Like, we’d have to sleep in the SAME room?!?” Yeah, that’s kinda how sharing a room with a sibling works, y’all.) At the beginning of October, I was enrolled in FIVE different e-courses ranging from three to thirty days in length. Even at work, I routinely create and maintain spreadsheets that contain hundreds of thousands to over a million rows.

That’s a lot of details – and it’s only a sample of the things I could list if I tried for anything that captured the entire picture. I feel sure that I’m not alone in this either and that you could create your own sizable list if you cared to. Honestly, though, I’m beginning to have a devil of a time keeping up with everything. On the main, we live in such a reductionist culture that we’re only starting to glimpse the value of understanding how systems work. Yes, there are specialists working in that field and have been for years but the general populace usually takes a long time to come around to having confidence in the ideas that, initially, are espoused only by the few on the forefront… And by the time the public has full confidence, the frontier has been pushed out even further. Why systems? Because I got to thinking about the typical ways in which we act and react and really we’re all complex bundles of systems constantly bumping into other bundles of systems but all the while trying to pretend that we’re not. For example, we might say, “I’m married.” Without any additional data, that looks different to each person based on their personal experience. It could be happily, unhappily, supportive, abusive or even ecstatic! But even the addition of a descriptor wouldn’t be sufficient because marriage is a system with lots and lots of interlocking pieces. You can lose some or add some and you still have a marriage but the system itself changes in response.

At one point in time, when I was still in college, I think I thought I knew just about everything that I needed to know to be a successful grown up. Then I graduated and pretty quickly figured out that I didn’t know nearly so much. It was the details, the exquisite, damnable details that got me, over and over, thwarting my movement, stalling my goals, wiping my plans out entirely, and forcing me to choose another direction, usually one that I didn’t really know enough about. I let the tsunami waves of details roll over me, pulling me out from the shore for a while only to roll me under in the sand then deposit me back on the sand, maybe a little further down the beach, but exhausted and scratched all to hell.

Since the nature of the Devil (and, no, not the Christian one) is one of a binding nature (often self-confining), I locked myself into a pursuit of gathering and juggling all of the details, believing that I was smart enough to do it and plenty capable, too. I could be everything to myself and to everyone else and YAY I could DO this adult thing – Woo!!

Not so, my dears… Not so. About five years ago, I really gave up on doing most of the paper-handling around our home because the overwhelm was starting to get to me but I didn’t really know what it was yet and that seemed like a reasonable thing to let go. I made sure the bills were paid, of course, but I didn’t set up any kind of filing system. Now? I’ve made occasional efforts to corral the worst of the chaos but system is out of control and weighing on me terribly. I know I have to face up to it, to figure out how to wrangle it back into shape… And I just want to cry when I even think about it for more than a moment.

Sigh… The Devil stands there looking all menacing but I’m the one keeping myself in these chains made of paper.