I met a 78-year-old woman the other day –an accomplished person by all regards– a registered dietitian, sommelier, graduate of CMU and graduate of Hyde Park culinary school in New York City. She also served 25 years in the army making the rank of colonel. But we almost didn’t meet–because she couldn’t find her car keys–it took her an hour to locate them in her house. She has always been like this (so says her husband), who refuses to fork over his own car keys, credit cards, etc. because– as he says, “They will never be returned.”
He classified his wife as an absent minded professor. He said, “She is so smart but also an airhead.” Age, wisdom, and a lifetime of experiences has not cured her of her forgetful ways.
And so when I encountered this woman, part of me felt like I was looking at my 78-year- old self. She is dedicated to a lifetime of learning and traveling– but also seemed hindered by her absent-mindedness and disorganization as well as hindered by the accumulating material ‘things’ in her life like purses, shoes and clothes.
As I am trying to cure myself of my absent-minded ways, meeting this 78-year-old was a real eye opener. Although I am trying to be more organized for my own personal sanity and the cohesive function of my family, I am beginning to see that I am not alone and many people of various ages struggle with organization. However, after talking briefly with this woman, it is evident that she is set in her ways, and learning any new skill to offset her disorganization is just not possible. She is who she is–and she has lived a lifetime this way. And she seems to be okay with that.
I have been thinking a lot about why I am disorganized–why I have lived my life disorganized–seeming to put out fire after fire and in many cases I seem to have the match and lighter fluid in hand. I have become my own worst enemy–I have thrived on the adrenaline rush of losing car keys and searching and destroying the house and requesting the help of others in my family on these quests. I think I have a two pronged problem: I have become addicted to the rush procrastination– to the point of hurting myself, and secondly, I thrive on/am addicted to getting help from others. I’m always asking for advice, help, and never sure of my own thoughts and decisions.
And I hope with this self- refection and self-recognition I am able to figure out ‘the why’ in my disorganization puzzle. And through figuring out the reasons, maybe I will have a cure–and receive peace–no more roller coasters of adrenaline searching for things–no more last minute clean ups prior to company–no more searching for bills that need to be paid.
Thinking back, a lot of my disorganization started right after I lost my mom. I know I was not a ‘born organized’ person, but I also know (after some major reflection) that my disorganization became a problem after my mom died. I still wanted someone to take care of me and I would place myself in position to need help/be distressed. But because of this, I never really learned how to help myself,or to love myself. I relied on others to the point of self-hurting—anything to get help from others.
All we see on TV, Netflix, and movies are super humans saving us ‘average’ humans–e.g. the Flash, Super girl, Dare Devil, X-men. In this age of super heroes, we must look within ourselves for the solution. I love these shows/movies,as I love super hero story line, but I need to find the strength and discipline within myself– and not look to others (super or otherwise) to save me (oftentimes from myself).
My Aunt Peggy used to tell me: “Sarah, put the gun away–quit shooting yourself in the foot.” She was like my second mom and she was so wise. It has taken me years to realize how many times I have shot myself in the foot. I think I have finally run out of bullets. So today, I am officially putting the gun away. I am going to continue my organization journey and realize that I can still change– for the better. At 38 nor at 78 will I be wasting any more time searching for things or putting out fires or filling my life with material stuff that clutters my life. Time is precious, and I want to spend my time with family and friends–savoring the sound of my children’s laughter.