Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dealing with mess

A less than welcoming sight
I found myself at the proverbial fork in the road a couple of weeks ago. It was a scene right out of that Robert Frost poem, or Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. There I was, at staring at the two roads diverged in a wood, at my life branching out like a fig tree in front of me. I had a tough choice to make, and a crucial one at that. It was, to me, something that would determine the rest of my life.

My parents kept telling me it was a happy problem to have, that having such good options, having options at all, meant that I was talented and smart. They were so excited at my being presented with this decision, but I just wanted to drag my face on the floor. Deciding what to eat at KFC is already a daunting task for a drifter like me. Having to make such an important choice was downright impossible. I simply couldn't see how I could do it.

Thinking about what to do kept me up nights, and even when I had formally made the decision, I felt unsettled, like I wanted to take it back. Suddenly, a paragraph I read from a novel years ago came screaming back to me, suddenly perfectly relevant to my life:
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.  From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.  One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.  I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.  I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.  
That was how I felt exactly. I wanted everything that was being offered me, I couldn't bear to say no to one or the other. Just like that, Sylvia Plath's Esther Greenwood became my soul sister, and that frightened me so much because she ended up struggling with mental illness, didn't she? I related to her so much, I felt I was headed in the same way.

The pressure of making the decision and making the RIGHT decision weighed on me like a ball and chain that I had to drag around as I went about my day. I felt like if I made the wrong move, I could send my life in a direction that I don't want it to go, and the thought of losing opportunities and dreams was too much for me to bear.

I went up to my room one night after suffering an entire day of mental chaos, and enduring a particularly tiring conversation with my mother about what I wanted to do with my life. At that point, I was just ready to fall on my bed and doze off, but when I opened the door, a less-than-welcoming sight greeted me instead.

A bunch of crumpled clothes, both used and unused, were thrown carelessly across my bed. An assortment of shoes and bags (some even with food inside), stacks of magazines, broken clothing hangers, newspapers, scraps of paper, and bunches of fallen hair were all littered across the floor and on my desk. Dust bunnies from my exhaust and electric fan floated around the room.

I'm pretty sure the mess had been building up for days before then, but I suppose I had been too caught up with steering my life that I didn't notice the small dump I was creating. Perhaps it's my lit major habit of always finding metaphor or symbolism somewhere, but as I surveyed the mess, I realized that the state of my room was a perfect echo of the state of my mind. My thoughts were just as frustrating, scattered, and disastrous as my room was.

Where I ended up for the night
I ended up sleeping on the floor that night, laying down the old thin sleeping mattress and Luigi's farm animal comforter that's been around since forever. The sleep gave me a stiff neck the next morning, which I still feel up to now, and it's been over two weeks. I cleaned  my room that same day. Of course, the fact that it is my room means that it is never really 100% perfectly clean. I will always have tiny whirlpools of chaos in this nook or that cranny. But at least when I was done, I actually had a place to sleep again.

So now my room is as clean as it can get. I can lie down on my bed again, and write on my desk. The dust bunnies have been corralled by the trusty walis and it is safe to breathe deeply again.

I guess my mind is in a similar state too. It's been cleaned up a bit, ever since I made the decision and made the decision to commit to the decision I made (get it?). I just had to drill into my head that it's a good experience I signed in for, and I really will learn a lot. And if I did make the wrong decision, it should be okay, my life won't be ruined. I mean, I'm young, it's the perfect time to make mistakes.

The moral of the story: Moping around and not committing to anything leads to a messy room, no space to sleep, and a stiff neck. Do something, decide.

1 comment:

  1. my dearest mandy,
    it's never easy to decide which way to go. you are right. you're much too young. heck, i'm turning 36 and i still have no clear idea where my life is heading. i just live every day the best I could. it gets pretty crazy sometimes but I always go by the belief that "when the mind's all cluttered, it's always best to let your heart do the talking." if you decide which way to go, your heart will help you find meaning in whatever it is despite the sacrifices you have to make along the way. we all want a lot of things. but all we need really is to find meaning in whatever it is we decide to do.
    keep blogging. i enjoy reading your posts. :)
    hope to see you sa january 2012 reunion ha. love, 'te lally