When we were kids my sister and I took a weekly ceramic class from a neighbor. There was a long table set up in the middle of her basement where we diligently worked on our projects. Along the walls were shelves of unfired clay in various shapes made from molds; the kiln was in the laundry room. As I remember it we’d pick a piece off the shelf, pay for it and our neighbor would fire it during the week to have it ready for us to work on at the next class. There were all types of paints and glazes to be used and she would help us select the right finish for our masterpieces. I’m sure I made plates, vases, and other vessels but all that remain are several Christmas tree ornaments.
I don’t put a tree up at Christmas but my sister does and her ceramic ornaments are always displayed. Mine are wrapped in tissue paper, tucked away in a box in a corner of my attic, but I can still picture the green house with its brown brick chimney, the white snowman with black eyes and buttons down his torso, the ornament shaped ornament. My sister’s ornaments are beautiful and nearly perfectly painted, one color clearly finished before the next color was put down. She seemed to always stay within the lines and all of her ornaments were finished with a clear glaze. My ornaments, on the other hand, were all finished with a stain. The purpose of staining them, my neighbor told me, was to hide the imperfections of my painting skills. I could never stay in the lines and one color always bled into the next. My sister is three and a half years older than me but that’s only part of it.
When I think about my life the same visual always pops into my mind – I don’t stay in the lines, instead I color over color and outside the printed picture (metaphorically of course, I actually can color within the lines now, not sure how my painting skills have progressed though). I see myself as disorganized, messy, disheveled, not necessarily in the physical sense but as a general feeling about myself, my personality, my character. I don’t see this as a negative trait, more as an observation. I will organize my closet, my drawer, the linen closet and within days there are shoes everywhere, socks shoved haphazardly in a drawer, toiletries knocked over. That’s how I see me.
Yet, I wake up at the same time every weekday morning and move through a ritual of getting ready for work which includes, among other things, making my bed as well as making coffee. I do my job at work, hit the gym during lunch and either meet friends or hang out at home after work. I read, watch TV, knit. I talk to Bill every night on the phone if we aren’t together. Nothing disorganized or chaotic in any of this. I have a routine which usually changes at night depending on my plans. I have some routines on the weekends too but they are much looser and apt to change. None of this feels rigid, I am able to flex and change any of it if/when necessary. But, if I’m not careful I will look at this life and feel bored, feel as I’m staying in the lines all the time, using one color at a time and not blending anywhere. This isn’t true and I am so happy for the chaos free life I’ve created. I’ve experienced real chaos and wouldn’t trade this life for that life…ever. I think what I’m experiencing is called being a responsible adult. I can allow myself to work and play and color outside the lines…even as a responsible adult. And I think it’s okay.