I am what you call an organized mess. If you walk into my house you will see on any given day a pile of musical instruments (in their cases, we’re not animals after all) amassed by the front door. A pile of mail (most of which is junk) heaped on the kitchen counter. A pile of unfolded laundry (most of which is clean) resting on my son’s bed. A pile of books and magazines (most of which I plan to read someday) loitering at my bedside. A pile of remote controllers (most of which I have no idea what they control) congregating on the credenza beneath our flat screen TV.
You get the idea.
About a year after my first son was born I gave in to the fact that I had lost control of my life, so I started making piles. Thinking this would somehow return my life to normal (whatever that was) I divided up my clutter as follows:
- Things that had to be dealt with now
- Things that I could temporarily procrastinate about
- Things that I could fool myself into thinking I’d get to someday, but in my heart I knew I’d ignore them until they had the good sense to go away
Very soon my piles gave birth to sub-piles, and before I knew it I was living in what looked like a well-organized city dump, dominated by mounds of colorful plastic. It appeared as if a designer had come in and redecorated the place in “Early Little Tikes.”
The thing is, I realize now that back then the piles actually caused me MORE stress than my pre-pile days. The piles were constant reminders that I was a loser who couldn’t accomplish anything in the course of a day—other than (possibly) getting my baby dressed before noon.
But all that self-doubt came to a crashing halt the day my cutie pie ate cheese for the first time. Unbeknownst to me he was lactose intolerant, so within minutes after I gave him his first tuna melt his little body rejected it in ways that can only be described as eruptive.
It began simply enough with him purging all over a stack of hospital bills that we’d been contesting for 15 months. Honestly, how could they be billing me for a tonsillectomy when I went in to give birth? (Wrong orifice, guys.) So although it bummed me out that that my dear, sweet little boy had defiled one of my precious piles, I did find poetic justice in the fact that he did to those bills what I felt like doing every time a new one arrived.
But the real a-ha moment came during part two of his cleanse. About an hour after I steamed-cleaned my hospital bills I smelled something so foul I swear the upholstery on the living room furniture started to fade. Either someone had just dropped off a wheelbarrow full of rotten eggs, or my little darling had a dirty diaper.
Whisking him to the changing table in his room, I whipped off the offending nappy with the finesse of those Swedish hotties on the reality show Nanny 911. Ew. Inside it was such an odd mess it looked like he had pooped out an organ. But judging by the big grin on his face I concluded that he hadn’t and continued to right the situation.
That’s When All Hell Broke Loose
Or rather his bowels broke loose (again), and the final effects of the tuna melt shot out of his butt with such force that it flew across his changing table onto (you guessed) a pile of papers lounging peacefully on an adjacent table. What the hell? I didn’t even remember making that pile. I held onto his little legs as I stretched over to get a better look at the stack. Through streaks of defecation I saw our property tax bill…which was overdue.
“Huh. I’ve been looking for that,” I muttered to myself.
Shuffling further through the stack I found an overdue water bill, a fine for an overdue library book (which I didn’t even remember checking out), and the license plate stickers for our car (which meant we were driving around with expired plates).
As I stared at the steaming pile of portentous papers, I couldn’t help but feel irresponsible, like I’d let someone down. But who, really? My city government by not paying my property tax on time? Sure, there’d be a late fee, which was a bummer, but it was an honest mistake. It wasn’t like I was trying to get out of paying my fair share.
I continued to ponder this as poop dribbled down the side of the table, forming a stain on the carpet that resembled Mickey Mouse ears.
The Moment I Got Smart
And then suddenly an epiphany evolved in my brain that has stuck with me ever since. Guess what? The universe WILL NOT explode (like my baby’s diaper) if the boring minutia of daily life does not get done. Bombs will not go off. People will not die. Children will not go hungry. Alligators will not come out of the commode and bite me in the rear.
However, my baby’s dirty diaper will not wait.
My little boy grinned at me as if he were in on this revelation.
I went to grab a wipe, and saw that we were out (typical). Not knowing what else to do I picked up the poopy property tax bill and used it to wipe my baby’s precious little behind.
Feeling triumphant I smiled, realizing that I had actually accomplished something important that day.