It always starts with the shoes.
For some reason when I’m irritated or slightly stressed, every pair of shoes I own finds its way out of my closet.
There are flats and heels everywhere. Shoes I don’t even wear on a regular basis. Shoes that don’t even belong to me. There are just shoes everywhere.
Then my entire closet full of clothes ends up on my bed.
Then I start carving a little Daniah shaped patch in the clothes so I can recline on the far left side closest to the outlet so I can charge my phone while I’m on it (don’t act like you don’t charge your phone and use it at the same time).
Soon every surface is in disarray. My floor is covered in mess. I feel overwhelmed just walking toward my bedroom door. I can hear the mess talking to me. On my worst days I cry while I’m forced to stand in the mess and get dressed or do my makeup. I cry because I hate it. I hate the mess, but in that moment I feel powerless to it.
But instead of cleaning it, do you know what I do when my room gets this messy? I turn off the lights and shut the door.
In other words, I completely ignore it.
I spoke about the connection between my mental state and the cleanliness of my bedroom in an article I wrote for Bedlam Magazine (that you can read here), and a few weeks ago I found myself in a similar situation.
My room was in shambles. It felt like a black hole. I couldn’t find anything, my sneakers, my green blazer, my resolve or determination, absolutely nothing. I didn’t have the courage or patience to look for anything, and I was just annoyed every time I even considered how dirty it was.
But my room was only a reflection of my mind. I was in shambles. I was having a really hard time getting off the emotional roller coaster (I spoke about that in last week’s post which you can read here), and honestly I was suppressing a lot of thoughts and feelings. Nothing goes right for me when my mind is a mess. I can’t focus properly, I can’t write, I can barely read, I can’t work, I can’t create. The only thing that comes easy to me in a negative space is the frivolous and the petty. I’m great at procrastination in a cluttered room, and I’m amazing at being unproductive. But you better believe I feel even worse when it’s all said and done.
Nothing life-giving or inspiring comes out of choosing to ignore the parts of me that hurt, and I bet the same is true for you.
The urge to clean my physical room came the way it always does, all at once. It’s like the Holy Spirit literally asks me, “Are you done?” and I clean my room from top to bottom. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, what day of the week. Once I’m done wallowing I need to clean like now.
This time I woke up at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning and just went in. I cleaned everything from the ceiling fan to the baseboards.
I confronted myself that same night and, thankfully, got off the emotional roller coaster. But just last week I started slipping.
I noticed that half my shoes were out of the closet.
I ignored it.
The following day half the bed was covered in clothes.
I ignored it and laid myself out on the clean half.
I couldn’t sleep.
Go pick up the shoes Daniah.
I knew what He was saying was really, stop being dramatic and come talk to me. Come face me, come face yourself. Come clean up this mess before it gets any worse.
So I left my bed and put the shoes and clothing back in the closet. And afterward I had a good, long talk with Yahweh about what I was trying so hard to avoid.
You see, the upkeep of your mind and the regulation of your mood isn’t a one-time job. You literally have to keep tabs on yourself every single day. Otherwise you end up overwhelmed and right back where you started, or worse. It’s fascinating to me how we fall victim to the same destructive habits over and over again, and we become so used to them that it takes an external force to let us know what we’re doing is destructive. This is why introspection and being honest with yourself are so important. You can’t change what you won’t face.
Your tell may not be a messy room. Maybe it’s a short temper, or silence. Maybe it’s over-eating or sleeping, maybe it’s watching too much tv or severe procrastination. Whatever the method, try your best to eliminate the ways you avoid yourself a little more each day. We all get beside ourselves when we’re stressed. And if that stress is left unchecked, I know from experience that it can lead to so much more pain. I’ve had anxiety attacks, crying fits, complete meltdowns all because I let my dirty room go unchecked.
Keep track of how you feel and why you feel that way. Recognize your patterns and habits and try your best to change them. Intercept your inclinations and choose a different path. We have that power, we can overcome.
Mental maintenance is not easy, but if you don’t go into the recesses of your mind and clear out the filth, no one else will.
Pay attention to yourself this week. Pay attention to what you do when you’re under pressure. How do you avoid unfavorable feelings? Are you coping when you should be confronting?