This morning when I walked up to my Think Tank, I thought I had stumbled
out onto a wasteland. A desert of clean carpet confronted me.
I found a clear path to my writing chair. No characteristic odors
rose to greet me.
felt like I was in a foreign country.
Ive spent the last 30+ years perfecting the art of the mess, from the
subtle practice of knowing which pile of clothes on the floor are clean
and which are dirty to locating exactly where a scrap of paper is in a
room where I can no longer find the floor. Now the time has come
when my son can crawl and rummage through my caches of treasure, searching
for deadly paper clips to suck on or important notes to tear up.
Im still in shock. I thought I had more time, kind of like how
people trying to quit smoking can nurse that last cigarette for months.
Its not fair, I declared to Rebecca indignantly, if my room
has to stay clean, then so does Skylars. Rebecca smiled the
sweet smile of victory. She said it was very generous of me to offer
to keep Skylars room clean since he couldnt be expected to keep it
Skylar, of course, loves the new arrangement. He gets to relish all
the joy of trashing his room without any of the hassle of having to clean
up. I watch as he crawls over to his shelf and pulls whichever toys
he wants usually all of them down to the floor. When
playtime is over, he watches as I crawl under his crib, straining to reach
that last block.
I used to think Skylars life was so much more limited than mine.
He only has so many toys, and its not long before hes back to one he
has already completely analyzed with his tongue. Yet he approaches
each experience of his life with fresh eyes. To my son, the house is
an adventure, and with crawling, that adventure just got more expansive
and exciting. He savors every nuance of his curiosity, up to the
height of my knees. And theres no such thing as leaving a project
unfinished anymore. For years the CD rack did just fine on the floor
in a corner until just recently when Skylar reached for one CD but pulled
in just the right way to cover himself in a jewel case blanket reminiscent
of how snow falls off the roof in a huge pile.
I should be clear that I harbor no ill feelings towards my son over this
arrangement. I find Skylars method inspirational: he sets out straight
ahead and takes on anything in his path, be it a basket of laundry, a
rocking chair, or a closed door. Everything he finds, even
yesterdays toys, is fresh and intriguing. I get a wonderful
vicarious joy out of watching him explore and destroy, even if I do have
to clean up after him.
Some days I could watch him for hours on end, but the responsible side of
me remembers that I have to get back to the daily grind, that there are
piles of messages waiting for me, piles of things I have to take care of,
piles of issues I have to deal with. Piles. I used to never
have to think about what Id do each day. It was all piled up
right in front of me. Today, and tomorrow, and the day after that,
were already defined for me. And by the time I cleared a pile, a new
pile would have piled up that needed tending to. I didnt even have to
think about what I had to do. Most days Im afraid I didnt.
It makes me wonder what happens to us when we grow up, as we learn to
talk, to walk, to drive, to take care of ourselves, to do anything we
want. Sometimes the world becomes a small, tiny place where its
easy to let life become a tired rerun of coming home from work and eating
pizza while watching videos.
I marvel at this little man in my life, who knows so little and yet so
much. As I watch Skylar explore, I think of the clutter in my life,
the things I leave out and in my way that demand my attention because I
have to walk around them until I deal with them.
But that was the old way. I look around my clean room. I always
thought sitting at an empty desk without any piles to tell me what to do
would be terrifying.
Sometimes its wonderful to be wrong.