In college there was a gang of about ten of my friends who taught each other to solve the Rubik’s Cube. At our most competitive, we’d race each other to see who could solve the puzzle the fastest. Some of us went as far as to spray WD-40 in the cracks to make it spin faster. Other time, when we were feeling more philosophical, we’d sit around twisting the cube into complex patterns and talk about the satisfaction of picking up a mixed up cube and solving it. It was an opportunity to fix something, to create order out of chaos.
These days, my house is a Rubik’s Cube – everyday, creating order out of chaos.
My wife and I moved into this – our first house – two years ago. It is a 150 year old farm house on a dog leg of the Manhan River in Western, Massachusetts. Before we bought it the inspector told us about a thousand little things that needed attention, but assured us there were no major problems. At the time my wife and I were relieved, but now I have come to understand that what the inspector was really say was that there is no land-mines in this house, but you may suffer death by a thousand cuts.
In truth, I think this is just the guilt of home ownership, felt by most home owners. There is always something more to be done, and usually – especially in older houses – the systems are all intertwined. You can’t fix the drainage, until you fix the grading, which has to wait until you move the flower beds, which are thriving because the drainage is all messed up. You can’t replace the boiler, unless you replace the old water pipes and the radiators, which means making new radiator covers, which will require a new paint job in the room.
You get the point. Solving the puzzle that is my house is nowhere near as simple as lining up the right colored squares. But like the Rubik’s Cube, I’ve benefitted from friends who are willing to teach and help.
Having a toddler only amplifying the sense of impending chaos around ever corner and through every door. By the time you get one room picked up, the other room is trashed. After awhile you find you can’t put the pieces of a puzzle together that your two year old can solver in a matter of seconds. Somehow everything that had a place this morning, no longer fits, is missing pieces, or is broken from being used as either a drum stick or a drum, or both.
At the end of the day, after our son falls asleep, we stand at the bottom of the stairs and take a deep breath before we starting picking up again. Order out of chaos.
It is worth noting that this is in many ways a happy chaos. I love working on my house and I love the tornado that is my son, and the imagination that he uses to create such beautiful chaos. And I love the challenge of an un-solved Rubik’s cube. That is in many ways the lesson here, order means little without chaos, and chaos would be unbearable without order as a counter-weight. That the pendulum of life swings between both extremes is no surprise. In fact, it can be a blessing at times.