Chaos and Rigidity

“And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause.
They are here to save our lives.”
– “Stranger than Fiction”

To bring in 2017, my husband and I threw a huge New Year’s Eve party. Huge for us means that there were about 30 adults and 10 kids. It means we had an adult upstairs, deliriously sprawled out our king-size bed because she had forgotten how hard tequila hit her, and in the same room, our friends had put their 11-month-old baby to sleep in a Pack N’ Play. I was feeding my friend Ritz crackers and water, trying to sober her up. I felt like I was in college again, except now I was a parent and there were a lot of kids running around shooting Nerf guns. It means that we all barely made it to midnight, and everyone was gone by 12:30am. It means that we left the house a disaster and went to bed by 1am. It means I was lying awake in bed until 3am because my brain was so overstimulated.

The next morning, I woke around 10am and came downstairs to find the mess. Everything is cast in new light the morning after. There were four Domino’s pizza boxes stacked on the stove. The queso had fossilized in the cold crockpot. Plastic champagne glasses, too many to count, were scattered throughout the downstairs, flat and half-drunk. Cake crumbs covered the black plastic table cloth like confetti. A thin film had grown across the surface of the hummus, and I found a trail of poop on the rug in the sunroom because no one had woken up in time to let the dog out. The ice in the champagne bucket was melted. I had started my period the night before, after the final guest left, and I felt the deep cramping take hold of my core as I poured my coffee.

Hello, 2017! Here I am in all of my glory!

A friend of mine, who is a licensed counselor, recently told me that sanity lies somewhere between chaos and rigidity. I thought about this as I sat on my old thrift-store couch, sipping my coffee, popping my Motrin, and avoiding the mess in the kitchen. I thought about where I might currently be on that spectrum. Surely, I was well towards the pole of chaos.

But, it was New Year’s Day—the day we are consistently invited to live a life of rigidity! Set some regulations to thrust yourself into deeper discipline and better living! Floss. Drink a gallon of water a day. Wake up at 5am every morning to go to the gym. Don’t sleep with your makeup on and forsake all sugar. Just kill me now. But, despite the resolutions, I love how a new year is like turning the page in a book—a fresh page, never before written on—a new chapter where something different can happen to enhance and enrich the character that already is.

The other night I re-watched one of my favorite movies, “Stranger Than Fiction”, with Will Ferrell as Harold Crick and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Ana Pascal. Ana is a Harvard drop-out who decided to make the world a better place with fresh baked cookies instead of a law degree. She is a loose cannon. She defies convention and stirs the pot, has a wild emotional landscape, a sharp tongue and a soft heart. She personifies wildness and chaos.
Then you have Harold, an IRS agent who does the same things, in the same order, at the same time, every day. He is rigidity. He lives his life by the precision of his watch, down to the second, until he inexplicably starts to hear the narration of his own life and realizes that he is the main character of a story that someone else is writing. Further–his narrator, played by Emma Thompson, is trying to kill him off.

In the midst of this, he is assigned to audit Ana’s negligent tax files, and he starts to fall in love with her. The plot gets interesting when Harold begins to wake up to his own life and reclaims the plot for himself. Ana’s chaos and Harold’s rigidity intersect, and the story gets really spicy and really sweet.

As I say HELLO to 2017, I am wondering where chaos and rigidity intersect in my life. I am wondering who I am allowing to narrate my story.

I am thinking about the plethora of stories in scripture where Jesus invites people to venture beyond the rules of religion or the boring confines people have created for themselves. Like Peter on the torrential ocean, He continually invites us out of the boat, into the chaos of the waves–and yet, He is not a God of chaos, but of order and peace, which leaves us engulfed by a baffling plot, full of paradox and tension.

In my study of poetry, I’ve learned that the most captivating parts of a story aren’t the big abstractions or vague generalities, but the vivid details of our everyday lives—the batch homemade cookies someone makes us, the dough we get to lick from our fingertips, or the tipsy friend sharing our master bedroom with a baby in a Pack N’ Play. They are the champagne toasts we make with our neighbors and the dirty dishes we clean up afterwards. They are the bizarre contrast between the fresh January morning air and the stale morning-after pizza. These little things are the heart of life–the living, breathing cells of our stories–which deserve to be told under the hood of the same tent. This is where we meet each other. This is where we meet Jesus. And, this, perhaps, is where our sanity lies.

What are the subtleties of your story and how have you met Jesus in those spaces?
Where do you exist on the line between chaos and rigidity?

elizabeth-kurz-bio-photoElizabeth (Libby) Kurz holds a BS in Nursing and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in The Poet’s Billow and Relief Journal. After years of moving cross-country with the US Air Force, she now resides on the coast of Virginia with her family. When she’s not reading, writing, and keeping tabs on her three kids, she works as a registered nurse in the cardiac operating room. She is a self-proclaimed coffee snob, wino, and beach bum, who appreciates finding meaning in the ordinary moments of life. She occasionally writes at