…good policy and order should be constituted and observed in the Kirk where, as in the house of God, it becomes all things to be done decently and in order. –from the Scots Confession, Chapter XX (first adopted in 1560)
I got back from the gym about 9:30a, the usual and appropriate time, but instead of jumping in the shower I began walking the house. Making the bed, putting away the clean and breakfast dishes. Picking up the sweater left on the floor to remind me to mend it, and spreading it out so the hole is easy to access. Around and around, looking for the out-of-place and restoring it. Recognizing the object-reminders and jotting down their tasks.
This house lends itself to ‘around and around,’ but I would have walked regardless. It’s my tidying habit. I viscerally remember being…9?…and standing in the doorway to my Louisville room, thoroughly overwhelmed and demoralized by the wall-to-wall chaos. My mother behind me, more encouraging in retrospect than I expect I felt her at the time, saying: Pick up one thing at your feet. Just one. Put that away. Yes, step on all the other things, put the one thing away, and come right back here. Good. Look at your feet; pick another thing. Put it away, and come back here.
I seldom invoke the complete discipline now, because I’m seldom in a place so wrecked that the only way to see progress is to create a clearing. But “put the one thing away” I still maintain…which is why I end up walking laps.
As I walked, I felt myself calmer and lighter, and sentences started to link themselves together…as I set a suitcase in the hall, retrieved a bathrobe from the girls’ room and brought it back to mine, dropped girl-towels in the washing machine.
Today is my first solo and unstructured day in quite a while. Yet I have less anxiousness and churn than recently; today, writing is a happy task like all the others. Which forms another layer of cheerful activity and rightness to this day.
I want to know what key it is that aligned the tumblers in my lock today. I am more than ready to grouse at myself and pull myself by the collar for the way I’ve spent most of the past two weeks…though I am reminding myself that those punitive conversations are too rarely fruitful to be worth having. This knowledge is not blunting the longing. I want to one-up Leonard Cohen: I not only want to know where the good words (songs) come from, I want to stand there all the time.
When I run out of things to try, though, I can count on my Presbyterian/Scots-Irish heritage (those two too intertwined to untangle): set my world in order, and decently it will right itself.
By the way, the opening quote is included in the first half of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, The Book of Confessions. The second half is called The Book of Order. We’re just like that.