I am, by nature, a neat and tidy person. I may not have coined the expression, “A place for everything and everything in its place,” but I live by it. I am happiest when my house is clean and organized, and have found that too much dirt and clutter actually makes me vaguely uneasy. As long as I’m being totally honest, I’ll also admit that when I’m anxious and unhappy, I sometimes find that cleaning my house actually makes me feel better.
I read somewhere that people who like to clean are attempting to impose order on a messy and unpredictable world, and I think that might be true. (It would certainly explain why I find housecleaning to be therapeutic.) But the problem is that the world we live in is often messy, chaotic and sometimes downright dangerous, and there’s not a thing I can do to “clean it up,” at least on any significant scale.
I may be one of the few people who responds to troubles with a vacuum in one hand and dust cloth in the other, but I do think that trying to impose some kind of order on the world is common. Many do it with social media posts, pointing out the error of other people’s ways in a vain attempt to convince them to think and behave in a way they find acceptable. And let’s face it, politics is all about trying to elect someone who shares our values, in the hopes that the candidate will be elected and then impose our values on everyone else. One way or another, we’re all trying to “clean up” the world, and often with the best of intentions.
But the truth is that the only person we can truly control is ourselves. Yes, we can do our part to make the world a better place by speaking our truth, standing up to oppression, helping those who need it, and most of all, being kind and compassionate to everyone who crosses our path. But we don’t really get to choose what other people think, say, or do. And since none of us is perfect, that’s probably a good thing.
So the conclusion I’ve come to is this: I need to learn to discern between the things I can control and the things I can’t, and I need to pay a whole lot more attention to the things I can. I may not be able to make the world a peaceful place, but I can make sure I embrace peace in my own life by being as tolerant, honest, and forgiving as I can possibly be. I can’t force others to own up to their mistakes and bad choices, but I can certainly own up to mine. In short, all I can do is try, in my limited and flawed way, to live up to the values I really do believe in…..and then let go of all the angst, worry and stress that comes when I focus too much on the things that I can’t control.
It’s a process for sure, and I doubt that I’ll be giving my vacuum cleaner a rest anytime soon. But if I really want 2021 to be a better year, the very best way I can start is by cleaning up my own act.