I pull order and understanding out of noise and chaos.
It’s just what I do.
I had to learn to do it with my mother very early and it has been my signature move ever since. It was why I could be the anti-Bob at the software company, pulling apart the tangles of the founder’s whims to try and keep projects on track, why I can spend almost three years decoding and replaying the princess rants of a young transperson.
This weekend, I got hauled down on an intervention to my sister’s oldest friend who is struggling to take care of her aging, ailing father. We walked into an apartment chockablock with detritus and I did what I have often done in my sister’s house, creating order out of chaos.
My sister did the close support with her friend; walks — visits, explanations — while I dove into the mess to create order.
Many people think the goal is only to erase, to stuff things away so that things look tidy, but I know that imposed solution only creates more lurking problems.
My strategy is to find organic solutions that don’t focus on disappearing challenges but rather on creating pathways, processes and strategies which can help us ride the chaos instead of trying to hide it. Usually, it is hiding and avoiding chaos which got us into the mess the first time.
I learned early that there was no way to put my mother in a box, to freeze her, and hide her craziness, so instead, I had to find practises which let me live with her, using my discipline to be out in front.
What happened this weekend, from creating order to lessons in more effective strategies to shop or talk to Dad, rested on me. My sister’s job was to help her friend understand me, to translate and affirm that my solutions tended to work. She encouraged her friend, and did pitch in on cleaning the kitchen and such, but it was my job to try and build a bridge to the future.
For me, going into concierge mode, being stoic to a fault, was the only way I could enter her world in a positive and effective way. There was a cost in willpower and energy, one that didn’t offer returns as the friend didn’t engage the lessons I was offering. I may have modelled new possibilities of wit, compassion, service and love but because she wasn’t ready, my efforts and skills were invisible to her, just ignored or dismissed.
To find the new, we have to let go of the old. Rebirth requires death. Embodying that message, though, means always facing the resistance to change, always doing that exhausting swim through the pudding that is the status quo.
Everyone heals in their own time and their own way, and while she took what she could, I saw what she could not take. I saw how much time and effort she would have to put in to change her choices and I also saw clearly that she may well never get there.
This is frustrating, of course, but even more frustrating is the knowledge that no one has ever done an intervention for me. Where is the person who sees what I need and works hard to offer me encouragement, affirmation and strategies to get it? Who listens and mirrors me? Who encourages me beyond my pain and damage? Who heals the healers?
I don’t hate being of personal service. I like helping other people and organizations to reveal the order inside of the chaos, to offer ways to see and choose that may create different results. I have learned not to expect the level of effort and caring I give to ever come back to me.
Worse, I know that many people love the chaos because they believe it gives them licence. If no one can pull meaning out and challenge you on it, then all that matters is that what you say sounds good.
Sometimes this is just frustrating, like when my sisters friend told us that her identity is built around being unlovable and with no one to understand or help her, so when we did what we did her belief structure was challenged. In turn this left her reactive, all the comfort of those identity props challenged, all the feelings that the props kept bottle up released.
More often, though, this is actually painful as people ignore, reject or attack me to try and silence my threat to their standing. They just don’t want me to challenge their identity props, the ones that make them comfortable by rationalizing their own actions. After all, those props are working for them, so why should they let anyone challenge them?
Revealing that the emperor has no clothing is not a very effective strategy for making friends, even if decades of living in the margins has made you such an effective observer people fear that you have x-ray vision.
Pulling order out of noise and chaos is what I do, though. That work is what allowed me to save my own life. I know that some people, whatever they claim, like noise and chaos because it supports blowhard rationalizing, keeping truth hidden, but it is my personal service, the service I needed in the world, the service I offer to others.
Practice, discipline and precision are at the heart of what I do. They aren’t, though, at the heart of everyone’s approach. That makes many uncomfortable, rejecting me, and certainly seeing me as unfeminine, no matter how much compassion and caring I offer up.
I know how to be of service. I know that is a gift I can offer.
I just also know that giving alone, especially giving what people find hard to engage, well, it won’t save you.