I went to Michigan State University (Go Green!) for undergraduate school. When I attended, there were about 55,000 kids there. It was quite a different academic setting than I was used to, but I embraced it. I liked the anonymity and independence of it all. I actually even enjoyed being a number rather than a name! I still remember it so well…A-11570684. That was me. I loved college.
The enormity of the campus left individual attention a rarity and for questions, one had to make an appointment with the professor. One of my classes actually had 1,200 students! I had to watch it on a local University channel on TV! You just couldn’t fit that many students in a classroom. Needless to say, although my teachers were very influential and some had a profound impact on my life and learning, I didn’t have a particularly close relationship with any of them because unless I really sought out help with questions or needed some special favor, they didn’t even know who I was.
I was a sophomore taking a class called, Sociology of Work. We had a paper due and for some reason, I just couldn’t write it. I usually love to write (when the nuggets aren’t making it impossible!) but I just couldn’t get my act together on this assignment. After numerous stops and starts with a next morning due date looming over me, I broke down. I called the professor (uh, we didn’t have email back then).
I read a few parts of what eight or so pages I had. She listened politely and patiently to my woes and complaints about the paper. Then, while we were talking, my cat stepped on the old school word processor I was using (remember those??) and erased the whole thing! She heard it go down! There was nothing left! I was devastated.
I thought for sure she would give me some sort of extension…I mean, by this time the paper was due in a matter of hours and she knew what happened. She had witnessed it.
When I insinuated that I thought she would give me a little more time, she simply declined. “No,” she said. “The paper is due in the morning.” I looked at the clock. It was after 10pm. And, I had nothing.
I remember this conversation so vividly. “But, my paper…it’s gone!”
“What paper? The one you read to me? That paper was no good. You had nothing and you still have nothing. Is your room clean?”
I was crushed. And, then – confused. “What?”
“Your room. Is it clean?”
I couldn’t imagine what she was talking about…I looked around. The truth was, it wasn’t clean. It was truly a mess. This seemed neither here nor there…I had a paper to write!
“I said, is your room clean?”
“No. It’s not.”
“Clean your room. When your room is perfect, then, write the paper.”
I was dumbfounded. I just sat there with my mouth open.
Then, she added, “a messy space is a messy mind.” And, she hung up.
At first, my confusion moved right to anger. What is she talking about? And, furthermore, just how uncaring and unsympathetic could she be!? Then, I considered her last words and slowly, reluctantly (and, at first thinking it was just a waste of time), began to make my bed…then pick up the clothes…and soon, my room was clean. It was perfect.
Then, I sat down at my desk and I wrote my paper.
Moms live in a perpetual mess. Our houses will never be “perfect.” Even if we waited until everybody went away to college, it’s still doubtful that we’ll have the Pinterest perfect home. But, where in your life, mama, can you make a lovely space? Is it the top of your vanity (where the kids can’t reach!) that holds a momento from your honeymoon, stationary you think is beautiful and a trinket of your great grandma’s? Is it in a closet that holds all of your wrappings and ribbons that you pull out when you’re alone and want to make a gift beautiful? Is it a view from one of your kitchen windows? Or, is it simply one clean or empty (!) drawer?
Where can you go to get your messy mind right?
It’s easy to fall into the perfect problem, but then you’ll always feel bad. I didn’t clean up my whole life that night. Or, even the whole house. Just my room…just this one space where I needed solice to think, to produce and be at peace.
I know you’re probably wondering…I got an A on my paper.
It seems quite trivial now. I’m sure she never even knew who I was and I have since forgotten her name, but she still is one of the most influential teachers I’ve ever had.
A messy space is a messy mind. So, find some solace. Create this space for you. Some clean, and “perfect” place you can “go” when you need to start over, embrace the spring and feel anew if only for the very present moment you are in…
I know now that a lovely space, is a lovely mind.
Much love and light to you,