Creating from chaos, some monkeys and a circus

  Photo credit: Andre Mouton, Unsplash

Photo credit: Andre Mouton, Unsplash

This blog could really be titled how the circus came to town and I got totally lost in the chaos.

We moved this summer after living in the same house where we raised our family for 16 years. Like most moves, things didn’t go the way I planned. The chaos of the move spilled out into all aspects of my life.

I will be honest — I had PLANS, big ones. Plans about how things would go, how fast progress would happen, when all the tradespeople would be done in the new house, when the new house would feel like a home. I took the summer off from work so I could be with my family and do the work of unpacking, organizing and setting up our new home. I knew September would come quickly, and with it a renewed travel schedule and a busy workload and I was excited to “get ‘er done” while I could. The clock was ticking and I had a list.

I set an intention of patience. It was all going to be fine and I was going to go with the flow. Pretty much every morning I woke up and told myself today I would be patient and easy going and our space would become a home. I held those intentions pretty tight. Honestly…I held the intention like there was no way it would be possible for the universe to be allowed to not get its shit together so my house could be finished being organized. Not a whole lot of openness there. Every night I’d be a little more frustrated, tense, disappointed with what hadn’t been completed.

As August rolled through we moved all our belongings into the new house and turned over possession of the old house to the new people. We had the new house painted and new light fixtures and closet organizers installed. Then things stalled out:

  • Furniture deliveries were delayed.

  • The folks refinishing some old furniture are now 4 weeks overdue delivering the pieces they were working on.

  • The basement office and bathroom I hoped would be done by mid August should be done by the end of September.

  • The basement family room remains unpacked with furniture piled up high, and the office downstairs is in boxes while that area remains a construction zone.

  • The furniture being made for my office is 4 weeks overdue, with delivery expected by the end of September, so my office is a lovely green room full of boxes and piles of books.

  • The living room is functional but there are countless boxes of books, paintings and family mementos waiting for the day the cabinet maker finishes building the shelves and cupboards around the fireplace.

On a positive note, the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen are unpacked and work pretty well.

I made a new friend recently, and part way through our conversation he said, “Not my monkeys, not my circus” as we talked about situations of human drama. It’s been playing over and over again in my head. It’s an easy phrase to remember; one of those lines that speaks of a universe of experience in choice making in just six words.

His comment made me think of my last few months and which circuses I visited, and how many monkeys I wrangled. The foundation of “not my monkeys, not my circus” is to be unattached to challenges that are not yours. It creates clear boundaries and borders for what you engage in, interact with and become emotionally invested in. It also connects to which problems you decide you need to fix, and what role you play in those problems; ringmaster, trapeze artist, monkey or audience.

Over the course of this chaos I interacted with every monkey that presented itself (and to be honest I attempted to wrestle most of them back in to their cages). I imagined myself the circus ringmaster. It turns out I wasn’t even an act, much less an audience member. I was on the sidelines without a ticket thinking I was in charge.

This has been such a great reminder to set a real honest intention about how you want to show up in times of chaos, before the chaos has its way with you.

  My office in chaos, the day we moved in.

My office in chaos, the day we moved in.

Back to the move. This was what my office looked like the week we moved in to the new house. It looks better now. Now the boxes are nicely piled up along the edges of the room. I can sit on the couch and use a lovely big plastic bin on top of a stool as a desk.

It is now September and summer is gone and I’m back in the thick of work.

I’ve got a new intention. It goes like this — life is crazy, messy, and unpredictable. There are countless circuses I could attend, and thousands of monkeys seeking my attention. Life doesn’t go in a straight line or according to plan. In the larger picture of our lives who really cares if my desk is a large plastic bin surrounded by boxes? We will eventually be unpacked. Home is where the heart is and I’m deeply grateful for our family, our lives and this new adventure. It’s just going to be what it is, and that includes moments of fun, happiness, frustration, anxiety, discomfort and straight up construction mess. But probably not patience — I’m not going to commit to patience this time.

When you are setting intentions in a chaotic time in your life, maybe ask yourself some questions so you can be present and open. Put your to do list away. These questions would probably would have been good for me to have used too!

  • How do I want to show up during this chaotic time in my life?

  • What emotions are probably going to run my life?

  • Where might I get stuck?

  • How can I be gentle and care for myself while I ride the storm of chaos?

  • What do I need from others to support me in this mess?

  • How might I offer support to others riding the storm?

  • When this is done and I look back, what do I hope will have happened?

  • Are these my monkeys? Is this my circus? Do I want them to be?

  • If I do step forward into this circus, what’s my role?

There is no avoiding the chaos; its just part of life. The difference is in how you ride the chaos, moving through the drama rather than into the middle of performance.

If you can, try not to ride it the way I did. But whatever happens, the chaos will give you gifts of learning, insight and opportunity if you are willing to see them.