Like a navel
A hole in its middle
Through which a gull may fly
-- Harold Witter Bynner
Last week, I met with a group of doctors who gather monthly to find meaning in medicine. Each time, we choose a different topic. This week’s topic was “Chaos.” I expected our discussion would float around to the chaos within our medical system. But that’s not what we talked about. Instead, we talked about the gift of chaos- the unexpected and mysterious ways that chaos leads to transformation.
It inspired me to reflect upon how chaos has affected my own life. As doctors, we are trained to always maintain order. Even in a busy emergency room, we try to create order. As doctors, we are foul-weather friends. When the shit hits the fan, we are all over it. We tend to bring this desire for order into our personal lives. We get so busy trying to control the Universe that it sometimes skips our notice that the Universe doesn’t need us to be in charge.
Chaos reminds us of this. When all hell breaks loose, we realize that we are not in control, but that doesn’t mean life doesn’t have its own magical sense of order. Even the most chaotic event, when viewed in retrospect, may become orderly. Above all else, chaos is a fertile place. Just like my messy, waxy, disorganized art studio inspires me to to create, chaos in our lives inspires creativity too. Suddenly, in the midst of loss, change, and disorder, we discover new ways of thinking and we see life with fresh eyes.
During a period of profound chaos in my life, I came to question everything I once held as true. Friendships changed. I quit my job. I moved away from the city I had always considered home. And I had to forge a whole new identity. Chaos shook me up so much that I no longer recognized my life. On one hand, I felt completely rootless, confused, befuddled, and disorderly. On the other hand, I felt profoundly liberated. With no order to cling to, I was free to do anything, to be anyone.
In my life, chaos has always been a necessary part of evolution. We never plan it. Instead, we blunder into it. Chaos in and of itself is nothing to fear. It seems to me that our resistance to the loss of order is where the pain comes in. What if, instead of fearing and resisting chaos, we view chaos with a sense of awe, knowing that the systems that have held life in order have collapsed and are begging for change? What might that feel like?
As I write this post, life outdoors has been a little chaotic. It’s been pouring rain all day long as I sit here at Owning Pink headquarters with Joy at my side. The rain has been pounding against the windows, and we’ve been wondering if the rain will ever stop. Then just as I was writing, I peeked out my window and noticed that the rain began to slow down and a beam of sun was peeking through the clouds. Moments later, a radiant rainbow appeared, spanning from one side of the green earth to the other in a brilliant arc of color. After a bit, the rainbow faded, leaving as quickly as it appeared. A few minutes after that, the rain stopped and the sun came out.
I think it’s a Sign from the Universe for all of us. Even when it’s pouring rain in our lives, there is a divine order to the chaos, and we don’t need to control it or even understand it. It’s enough just to sit back in wonder and awe.
How has chaos affected you, Pinkies? Have you gotten divorced, lost your job, said goodbye to a loved one, found yourself with an empty nest, been mired in an out-of-control work project, been caught up in family drama, suffered from someone else’s cruelty, or otherwise been thrown into chaos? Of course you have. We all have. Chaos is simply part of living.
Why do we crave order so much? Is it because order means predictability, which means safety? Is our greatest fear that there is no order, that life is truly random? How much as we willing to sacrifice in order to wrangle order into our lives? Must we always fight chaos? Would it be possible to simply surrender into chaos?
I believe that chaos is necessary to growth- to vibrant, colorful, radiant, sparkly life. Chaos is the antidote to stagnation. All we have to do is sit back and marvel.
Knowing there is gold at the end of the rainbow,
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