Love Stories That Mess Us Up

I can’t live without you!”

Does that mean that the one who says it really really loves you?

No

It’s a romantic thing we say to each other, but if your prospective partner shows signs of really believing it, he or she is not reality-based, and you should run as fast as possible in another direction. Love means being a whole person who doesn’t need another person but can choose freely to love that person. Love may mean carrying on alone what you and a loved one have built together. The traditional marriage vow reminds us of this in the words until death do us part. It is not the happiest part of the marriage vow, but it reminds us to live and love and rejoice in being together in the here and now and that someday, sad as it may be, one partner will have to carry on without the other.

LOVE STORIES THAT MESS US UP

The right person, your true love, your soulmate, will make you happy for the rest of your life. All you have to do is find that one person who is right for you.

NO

You are the only person in the world who can make YOU happy. If you are an unhappy single person, you will be an unhappy married person. Your spouse, your mother, your friend, your counselor, your minister may point the way to Happiness and her less-glamorous but more desirable sister, Contentment, but you have to find them for yourself.

A Book of Valentines and a Fourth-Grade Crush

vintage-valentine

On the tenth of February when I was in fourth grade, Mama gave me a quarter to go to the dime store and buy a book of valentines to cut out, address, sign, and give to my classmates at the homeroom Valentine’s Day party. A quarter was enough to buy a respectable book with an adequate number of Valentines, but not enough for the fancy flocked and glittered ones, and that made me sad. I wanted to give very special Valentines to my crush, my best friend, and my teacher.

From the time I can remember, I had very intense crushes: James, the nineteen-year-old farm hand I admired from afar, the very definition of handsome for me; seven-year-old Bob, the little redheaded boy in the bluebird costume who thrilled me when he held my hand, leading me onstage as queen of the flowers in Mrs. Stripling’s recital for our Expression class in Nocona, Texas. When I moved away to Denver City, Bob sent me a hand-printed letter telling me that he missed me and hoped I would come back soon.

By fourth grade I was in love with a boy named Ronnie in the Wickett, Texas, Elementary School. Ronnie’s sister Shirley was my friend and playmate. Of course, Ronnie had no idea how I felt about him, and if he had known he probably wouldn’t have cared or would have run as fast as he could in the opposite direction because fourth-grade boys and fourth-grade girls see crushes differently, but I wanted to give Ronnie a big valentine with flocking and glitter, like the ones in the twenty-nine-cent books because I thought he deserved it. I also wanted to give fancy Valentines to my best friend, Billie Ann, and to my teacher, but the rules were that you had to give a card to everyone in the class if you wanted to participate in the Valentine’s Day party exchange. I had only twenty-five cents to spend, so I pored over the Valentines, looking for one that would subtly show Ronnie that he was the one I REALLY wanted to “be my Valentine,” no matter what all the other boys’ cards said. Billie Ann and I knew we were best friends, so the special Valentine was just a formality, and the teacher would know that a fancy Valentine probably meant that the kid who gave it to her was either rich or spoiled or both.

On the day of the party, our room mothers brought pink cupcakes, iced cookies, and red Kool-Aid, and we forgot about science and social studies for an hour or so while we enjoyed the treats and ceremoniously handed out the carefully cut, folded, pasted, and signed Valentines with our friends’ names on the envelopes, also folded and pasted. I read and re-read the messages for signs that each giver REALLY liked me, checking Ronnie’s especially for signs of true love.

I had carried my homemade Valentines to school in a shoe box, and I felt all happy inside as I carried the ones my friends had given me back home in that shoe box. Even though I knew that everyone gave everyone a card and that the messages were made up by someone in a Valentine Book Factory, when I read each one, I felt like the message was for me and that the sender really meant it. Even Ronnie’s. Especially Ronnie’s.

Organized and Picture-Perfect Are Not Equal

A beautifully-staged kitchen. Who knows what’s behind the pantry doors?
Julia Child in her well-organized kitchen. We have proof it worked for her!

It has taken me a long lifetime to learn that a clean and organized house where real people live will never look like those wonderful houses on HGTV and beyond. Real people are messy, and the secret of an organized house is that neither messiness nor obsessive order are allowed to intrude on the joy and peace of mind of the people who live in it.

Overwhelmed by the amount of work that it will take to put my house in order, I turn on Hoarders to enjoy a moment of schadenfreude–a secret pleasure in someone else’s misfortune because, I say, “There, but for the fact that I am not a TOTAL nut case, go I. “Then I flip on Fixer-Upper to indulge another sinful pleasure–coveting one of Joanna Gaines’s beautifully staged fixed-up houses before the lucky owners move in and mess it up.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for getting organized. If it works for you, then it works. If, however, you have a feeling that “it” (whatever “it” is) could be working better, you may benefit from learning a few principles of organization and having a few rules of thumb to help you along. I’m not going to teach you those principles and rules of thumb because you can find them in abundance in books and blogs, but I am going to share a few tricks and tips that have worked for me and hope that maybe they will work for you to help you cut down on the time you spend searching for lost objects, re-organizing and cleaning, and spend more time doing things you really love to do.

  1. Ditch those pictures in your head. Look honestly at what you and your housemates do at home and maybe some things you would like to do if you had the right space for it. Then decide what you need so that you can happily do whatever those things are.
  2. Start small. If you’re the kind of person who can pull everything out at once and then put it in order without getting overwhelmed, you can ignore this suggestion. I like to make a huge mess and then clean it up, but the truth is that this method doesn’t work for me, so I’ve learned to work on one space at a time–whatever I think I can finish in the time that I have. It may be a bathroom, a drawer, or a corner. Finishing something, however small, gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  3. Acknowledge that you’ll never “get caught up.” For much of my life, I’ve lived in the fantasy that someday in some mythical future, I would finally “get caught up” and then life would be marvelous and I could get some rest. Life, it turns out, is always a work in progress. If you think you are caught up, you should start a project so you don’t get bored. However, if you work on getting organized, you can have more stress-free days no matter what you’re doing.
  4. Identify and deal with clutter before you start organizing. If you still have issues to deal with about letting go of material things and you have a reasonable amount of available space and a fair number of boxes, quickly clear away things you don’t use and pack them in boxes. A little proactive procrastination can help you get to the more urgent business of organizing things you use before you tackle harder issues involving sentimental clutter.
  5. Designate places for everything you need, use, or want. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is an old saying. If you have a place for everything, putting it away is much quicker and easier. Things that are used often should be within easy reach. Infrequently used objects, like Christmas decorations, can occupy less-convenient spaces. Before you buy anything at all, mentally give it a place in your house. If you don’t have a place for it, you probably shouldn’t buy it!
  6. Use containers and labels. The Container Store is one of my favorite business establishments, but I try to avoid the temptation of spending way too much money there (1) by minimizing the possessions to be contained and (2) by re-purposing used commercial containers like coffee cans, shoe boxes, and sturdy plastic containers. Labeling is a real time-saver and well worth the time it takes!
  7. Get professional advice (but take it with a grain of salt). I can’t afford to hire a professional organizer, but I do look for advice online and in books and magazines. However, advice should always be tailored to your needs and wishes. Marie Kondo, who has a lot of good advice to give, says thirty books are enough. I say, “You don’t know me, Marie!”
Here are some ingenious organizing hacks from Good Housekeeping. If you seriously declutter first, some of them will be unnecessary!
One hundred tips for organizing your house

DO I NEED TO GET ORGANIZED?

  • Do you regularly spend extra time looking for things like your keys or your phone?
  • Are you often stressed and overwhelmed by tasks like getting dressed in the morning, making a snack, or cooking a meal?
  • Do you find yourself too often in need of totally re-organizing your desk, refrigerator, pantry, closet, or other space that you use a lot?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you would probably benefit from some work on your personal organization. If you are productive and efficient at work and contented and effective at home, you may already be organized, even if your house and workplace don’t look like photos on Pinterest or staged houses on HGTV. A house or workplace with real people living and working in them will not look like that. It will probably not even look like your crafty stay-at-home grandma’s house, but if it works for you, it works. Some people are more relaxed in the middle of organized clutter; others work better in zen-like surroundings. Few people, though, can do their best in the middle of unorganized surroundings and with unorganized minds and spirits.

We hear of famously unorganized, bad-tempered, abusive, and perpetually stressed-out geniuses. Some of them have famously died early and unhappily. We hear of them, but, although I have met a few unorganized narcissists who fancied that they were geniuses, I can’t recall ever actually knowing an authentic productive genius with those unfortunate characteristics.

There is no single standard for good organization, but all of us can benefit from observing and listening to people who are good at getting things done while they remain healthy and free of unnecessary stress.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. 1 Timothy 6:17-19

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