Earlier this week I went to write a poem about an epiphany I had at my friend Jen's house, nearly 20 years ago now. I remember this day: she and her husband had left for work, her children for school, and I was returning something to her house.
I opened the door on a September morning and something in me was pierced. I felt a flood of tenderness as I took in the ordinary, extraordinary beauty of my friend's house: at the suchness of each bike helmet and crumpled sock.
The poem that came to me was a bit different than the one I'd imagined writing. What came with the wonder of that epiphany was an awakening to mess and disorder, and how order, when I'm frightened, holds me steady. I feel compassion for the anxiety that's lived within my body and the ways this anxiety longs to be held. And I feel gratitude for the way that anxiety is pierced open, over and over, by a love that beckons me to be still.
I remember that day clearly, walking
into my friend's house after the flurry
of morning. Dishes were on the
breakfast table. A pile of shoes and
bike helmets lay by the front door.
When my house is cluttered, I mostly
see the mess. My children tease me
about the way I put papers into piles
and shoes into closets. When my house
is in order something in me stills.
If I feel ordered on the inside I can face
the disorder on the outside, the threads
of my life that I can't grasp or gather
into a semblance of sense.
But my friend's dishes and jumble
of shoes bring calm. I miss my friend.
I miss the feeling I felt each time I walked
through her door, that warm, liquid honey.
On that September morning I left my own mess
at home and walked inside. Something opened.
I saw the tenderness of shoelaces and generosity
of breakfast dishes. I saw the beauty of papers
coloring the piano.
I saw the shaggy threads of our lives and
the ways we try to clean them up. There's
an image of coping that I carry inside, and
it feels solid, impenetrable and true. It thinks
I should always be doing better.
But my life is a constant unraveling. Order
and disorder, they are never still. They
dissolve me and dissolve how I see until
I stand in my cluttered house, still.