Artist’s Lane: Not so neat and tidy

By Betty Slade
PREVIEW Columnist

Every once in a while I look around the house and ask, “How did everything get so messy? I thought I had just cleaned that.”

Among friends and family, things can also get out of shape, especially when someone is out of control. It doesn’t matter where we are in life, things can always get messy. 

A writer friend said at our writers’ group, “We need to do some housekeeping.” 

While that sounds like a simple way of solving a problem, some things are not so neat and tidy.

A few weeks ago, our writers’ group decided to allow those with interest to move back to our usual meeting space. An online and in-person format would allow the group to operate in a safe manner based on the individual preference of the attendee. Unfortunately, the flexibility came at a price. People showed up late while those on Zoom were left to wait. 

Online, we controlled who entered the virtual meeting with the click of a button. If late, you were not admitted. In person, it’s a different story entirely. Have you ever tried to wrestle someone away from a doughnut at a coffee bar? 

While some patiently wait for activities to begin, others catch up with what’s been happening around town. In retrospect, few noticed how their lack of awareness infringes on those around them. This is probably magnified when people are separated, personally from virtual. 

When our writers’ group decided to operate out of multiple locations, the leadership team tried to think through any potential hiccups. But, just like a messy house, you don’t notice there is a problem when there is just one dirty dish in the sink. 

And so, it goes on with the home front. Just because family is family, it doesn’t mean there aren’t the occasional cobwebs to clear or clutter to put away. Call it enabling or too much love. If left unchecked, it can become a larger than life problem. 

Yes, even family has to be held to the light. It is easy enough not to have certain conversations, to let things lie. But, ignore them and they will engorge you.

So, how do we clean up all of the messes around us? One piece at a time. But, it doesn’t stop there. In order to understand the true make and build of a problem, we have to bring every piece of the puzzle to the middle of the room. 

I’d submit to you that there are times when I needed to create a bigger mess in order to get a deeper clean. Sometimes I’ve had to create a cloud of dust if it means sweeping out the very corners of a closet. 

Once the dust settles, we have a better view of what needs to stay and what needs to go. 

It’s hard to reckon with a problem when all you see is the problem. Take it apart and you know what it’s made of, how it got there. 

In a dirty house, we roll up our sleeves, pull out the cleaning supplies and start scrubbing. With people, it’s not much different. There are relationships that need to be scrubbed and some that simply need to be repurposed or repositioned. 

Final brushstroke: This week, I saw God work in a miraculous way. I saw things in both my professional and personal life that needed to be looked at. I saw where confusion chipped away at clarity and began to blind order. Thankfully, God grants us the sight to see the clutter around us.

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This story was posted on October 20, 2020.