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Chaos Comes Back
how to ride and how to disembark
Within the folds of August’s hazy layers, there were many moments where my brain had to figure out how to breathe—as if it’s not ingrained in every fiber of my being. It’s funny how we can make even the most human things complicated, until you’re sighing three times a minute in lieu of flowing rhythmic breaths.
You don’t notice it at first: audible heavy exhales punctuated by flimsy inhales, with no more substance than a semicolon. For a while, the truncated breaths pass through without examination, until one sigh lands on your lap with a thud. Only then you realize it’s just one of many heavyweight champs expelled by the body in recent days.
There’s only one thing that could scramble my survival’s most basic pattern and that thing is Chaos. When I recognized it, I couldn’t help but think, hello old friend. Years ago, my father introduced me to the concept of Chaos: a primordial streak in our existence, like Destiny if she threw away her map and lost her careful ledger of everything that ever happened.
While I couldn’t grasp my dad’s quantum mechanic talk, the Chaos theory caused a visceral reaction in my bloodstream. My heart raced and my feet felt heavy, but in a good way—like the earth was finally there to receive them. Chaos was impersonal, it was ever present, atmospheric. It showed up in equal parts oxygen and methane.
I embraced the idea: a force in the world that touches all of us, something to behold for its power, but never look at with fear. Finally aware of Chaos, I studied its swirling grooves, visible like the twirling water lines on a river bound log. How lucky that Chaos loves to be known—we can trace its effects and learn more every time.
After identifying Chaos in our midst, I came to see its sticky fingerprints smeared across all my life’s major plot points. We all have them: whether it finds you early or late, Chaos will come. We can brace against the inevitable, but then we prevent ourselves from experiencing the naked transformative quality, rendering new life from shifts in the terrain. And that’s the key: Chaos is not a villain, it just is. Chaos can kick up dust and part the seas, it can broker real love and place a cushion under heartbreak, it can unmask both traps and opportunities.
With any force of nature, we have a few choices.
Pretend they don’t exist, but they do, so you will be taken by sudden surprise each time they appear.
Be hyper-aware of their existence, which zaps a portion of your existence. Seen through a filter of what ifs and worries, life is drained of its colorful pulse.
Ride the waves as they come, knowing they are meant to ebb and flow. Grow a second skin of non attachment, which allows you to feel everything without getting stuck for too long on a single feeling.
At some point in life, I’ve done all three of these things.
When you live too long within a Chaos hotspot, it ripples back and forth until there’s no smooth surface to land on. At some point, we become the very epicenter of our own mental storm.
You fight on your rock with a laughably constructed sword, swinging at the air that must be out to get you. Sweat turns your shirt a different shade as you defend the barren landscape. If you get to this point of high-pitched-freak-out-mode, Chaos will really want to show you not all disruptions are bad. Rain will turn to hail. The smooth rock surface grows frost, too slippery to stand. Finally, you will ask yourself when was the last time I harvested a crop here?
If you slide off the rock, immerse full body into the churning sea, Chaos will transport you. No doubt about it. Sometimes the trip will be quick, other times you really have to tilt your head back and keep the body buoyant. Hold space in your mind, so when you become a new version of yourself—which you most certainly will—you are free of judgements and “how it should be”.
Recognizing Chaos is a constant practice. If I experience an erratic day, week, month, and want to label it as Shit Hitting The Fan, I remember that it’s really just Chaos. Impersonal. An offering. A lesson. A chance to change.
Mysterious infection landing your dad in emergency surgery? Chaos.
Circus in the comment section? Chaos.
Rent spike that leads to a last minute move? Chaos.
Weird job experience that makes you change industries? Chaos.
All of these things happened in the past 18 months. With some of them I felt ready to wade into the current. Others took a storm to wash me into the water. All of it landed me on a new shoreline, adorned with cascading flora and fauna, messages written on the petals, in the sand, under stones that I alone could not lift. I had to learn to call for reinforcements, I found smoke signals aren’t always necessary. Looking back, I can see the places Chaos filled in the gaps, so I could walk across bridges that seemed too rickety to ever set foot.
The Chaos of August caught me by surprise, because it came bearing gifts. A new creative project and a chance to spend time in an unfamiliar city? How could I say no? I opened my arms big, so wide, to take in everything. And I did and I am, but here is the thing with being so familiar with Chaos: it becomes a comfort zone.
Finding a true sustainable rhythm is where it’s really at. Remembering your rituals: like your silly walks where you talk out loud and tell the atmosphere everything you love. Guess what? These walks are not silly at all, they’re the very tools that hoist you from the Chaos vehicle onto the land that asks for harvest. So that’s what I’m doing now. I will not strive for perfect execution of any task. I’m remembering how to thank the Chaos, disembark from its ship and worship exactly where I am right now.