An Ultimatum


I am sitting on a bed that’s made in a room that’s a disaster. And it’s kind of a metaphor for my life. If one thing is tidy and complete, everything else is messy and unfinished, or truthfully, unstarted.

I’ve been having a little slow onset breakdown lately. It’s been a gradual decent, less of an explosion and more of a slow flame, but my house is still burning down. It’s a combination of things, it always is—overreaching, misfiring, falling short. I feel like I put all my time into life’s logistics—feeding people, cleaning rooms, packing bags. And I don’t do any of it well. I feel like my marriage is egalitarian and all, but still. There aren’t enough hands. Already. There aren’t enough hands. I feel like I just don’t have anything interesting to say anymore. I don’t follow current events. I don’t read for pleasure. I haven’t in months. And aside from the nichey trade topics I write about for work, topics most people in my normal circles wouldn’t know or care a thing about, all I have to talk about are my goals. I can’t talk about what I’m doing or thinking, only what I hope to be doing and thinking. And hopes are fine, but they make for short conversations.

And if this whole thing were an ultimatum, it would be this: either live in filth and anarchy or spend your days as an uninteresting person. You can’t have both. You have to choose.

I know it’s not an ultimatum, that life doesn’t really give you many of those, but I also know that my hypothetical choice is revealing. I’ve been choosing cleanliness and order, hoping for creativity and learning, and failing at all of it. So many people are searching for wholeness and when they talk about it, they talking about looking for someones or somethings that will fill up their empty spaces. But I have no empty spaces. I’m full to the brim, too full. I’m heavy, lonely, and bursting, like I’m holding my breath. I’ve made myself an island of this perfectly tidy bed and I’m sinking in a sea of chaos and expectations and I just need to jump off and swim away and start over.

I want wholeness just as much as the next Joe, but I don’t want to fill myself up just to fill myself up. I need to clean house before I can deal with the emptiness. And no, for once, I don’t mean that literally. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up to a dresser covered with unfiled papers and camping gear. There will be ants all over my sticky kitchen floor. Scout will wear a mildewy swim suit to swim class. But maybe I’ll have a clearer head and a lighter gut when I wake up tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have a better idea of who I really want to be.


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