Chaos Theory

It’s hell to be young.  Pretty stories of youth abound, mostly phoney.  Movies show us thin archetypes, while inside our young heads are too many questions paired with untrustworthy answers.  It seems the land of milk and honey is blocked off for us.  We don’t have the right gear, the proper password, the insider knowledge, a thoughtful guide.  You can’t find the road on any map.

Can you remember those days, those feelings, that emotional chaos with few handholds?  How did you survive?

49 responses to “Chaos Theory

  1. With four brothers and no sisters, I grew up feeling like an odd ball. The entire neighborhood was predominantly boys so there was no escape from my feeling of being different. To survive, I tried to be a boy.

    I liked doing all the things boys do so that was good. I liked wearing my brothers’ white t-shirts and blue jeans for play after school until a female classmate saw me in them and embarrassed me at school the next day. To survive, I tried not to be like a boy.

    I suffered silently because there was no one to share my feelings with and I wouldn’t have been able to put them into words if I’d had someone’s ear to whisper into. To survive, I stashed my pain deep inside.

    I had nice clothes, a nice, clean home, regular meals and all the basic necessities. I suspected I was loved by my parents, but I didn’t feel it. Mom was uptight and caught up in keeping the house and our clothes clean, cooking and all the other household chores. She didn’t have time to love us and didn’t know how much more we needed love than a spotless kitchen floor. To survive, I didn’t expect to be loved.

    Dad was quiet and angry.

    I desperately needed a thoughtful guide and a map for direction, unavailable to me and most everyone else. Instead, I survived by spending much of my time reading books from the library. I escaped from reality by sticking my nose between the pages. To survive, I pretended I was someone else.

    I survived by burying myself in school work and being the best student possible. I found comfort in good grades that I found nowhere else. If I could get all the right answers on my assignments and tests, I felt in control of my world. To survive, I put importance on getting A’s.

    I memorized all the Bible verses I was assigned, never missing a single word. I tried to be good and said the Lord’s Prayer at night before I went to sleep, trying hard to think about the meaning behind each line. To survive, I tried to please God.

    I didn’t have a strong sense of self so I quaked in social situations, longing to be home in the safety of my bedroom and hating my loneliness. I survived by enduring the pain.

    So that’s how I survived my youth.

    Beyond that, I met my husband to be and all the love I was so thirsty for was showered on me unconditionally and in quantities I barely knew how to absorb.

    The affect on me of many years of emotional neglect during my youth was more than Lon was able to fix.

    Unprepared for the real world, I barely survived my early adulthood years.

    After struggling with my sense of purpose and value as a human being, I find myself presently happier than I’ve ever been. I believe writing straightened me out and gave me a passion that helps me cut a path through life’s challenges.

    Yes, at every stage of our lives, we must learn how to survive.

  2. This is the most powerful piece of yours that I have read, Shaddy. Style, content and voice: really fine.

  3. You tell your story well, Shaddy, and with dignity. I’m still thinking about which period of chaos I want to write about. Oh, so many choices….. ;/

  4. You bring up an interesting point – that we often survive situations by morphing into the image we perceive will help us fit in. That is certainly true of teenagers and probably true of more adults than we realize.

    Nice job, Shaddy.

  5. I believe it takes a while to grow up in this culture. I could speculate on the reasons, but instead I’ll share a moment of my history, my youth, when I felt as if there were no roads out. I was a single mom to a toddler, divorced from my second husband, 29, and working as a secretary. I had a Liberal Arts degree with no specialization, and no skills other than the fact that I could type 100 words a minute. I had moved to a new town to be near a married sister who also had a young child, but I lived by myself in a rather weird four room apartment, with neighbors whom I found scary. I remember standing with my back to the cheap dark paneling of my apartment wall one night after putting the baby to bed and weeping those hopeless tears that you just put up with because they solve nothing and lead nowhere.

    How does one get from there to here? Like Shaddy I am now happy, fulfilled in my life, and loved. I have been this way for many years now. Life isn’t perfect, but I know how to get through the hard parts that will always return. I can’t prescribe the path to happiness, however. All the clichés are true, but not very helpful. Take one step at a time. You make your own luck. Keep your chin up. Blahdy blah. I guess my favorite is, “Keep going.”

    Until I find the rewind button, I plan to do just that.

    • How nice it is to hear from you, Ann!

      I like to think that we can appreciate our present lives more deeply when we compare the here and now with our pasts.

      If everything was always hunky doory, we’d possibly live like robots set on neutral.

  6. Can you remember those days, those feelings, that emotional chaos with few handholds?

    You mean that’s supposed to go away?????!!!

  7. When I had one miscarriage after another, I alternately cursed God and begged him to explain why this was happening to me. After a few more years, I suspected my husband was having an affair with a very young girl who worked for him. Like many men, he hid by suggesting that I was suffering paranoia in addition to all my other problems. I believed him for a time. It’s funny how you allow some people to influence you so deeply you question your own basic tenets. Then one day he told me he wanted a divorce.

    I came away from that marriage in deep financial debt, emotionally (and physically) beaten down and sincerely questioning my own ability to function. Quite suddenly, people emerged from the woodwork telling me stories about him and his ‘social life’ – literally coming up to me in stores while I was shopping. Everything I’d suspected had been true. It hurt to hear all those stories, but I gained a little ground realizing that I hadn’t been a total nut case after all. Then I remembered all those conversations I’d had with God and how I’d been so angry and wondered why all that was happening to me. He had answered my prayers, my demands, and I hadn’t even realized it. With only a high school education, a part-time job and no family I could go to for financial help, I could never have made it alone with a child. It took me awhile to realize it, but I’d been given a chance to start over.

    I spent a few years experimenting with life, doing the things at 30 that most women do in their teens and early twenties. Learning to live alone was my first step. I made mistakes, tried not to repeat them and moved on. Like Ann, I cried many, many of those hopeless tears. But I kept going and eventually I also found someone else. I remember often pausing to look at him and say with genuine incredulity that our life together was what I’d always thought marriage was supposed to be like. We’re retired now and having the time of our lives. I still pause to consider my husband, my home and my life with deep appreciation and wonder exactly how I got from there to here.

    • I know what you mean about wondering how we got to where we are now with the obstacles we faced along the way.

      I’ve been given so many second chances that I’ve lost count. In that department especially, I’ve been blessed.

      Thank you for sharing. Until I started writing in classes, here and on my blog, I thought I was alone in my difficulties. I’ve learned a lot in the past three years about the human condition. We’re all struggling in our own ways. Life’s not a total picnic for anyone.

      • Barbara Burris

        Like Ann, I lived in a very rough neighborhood because that was where I could afford to live. It was definitely no picnic, but I saw plenty of people every day at work who had it worse than me. It happened that when I was at my lowest ebb, I was working as office manager for a string of free-standing medical clinics. I had keys to all three, including keys to the ‘crash carts’. Those are the drug carts that house the heavy duty stuff used when patients are having heart attacks, seizures and the like. I knew what to take and how to take it. I had all the equipment to off myself at any time, right at my fingertips. There was one main reason didn’t. I believed in the teachings of my church that it was a huge no-no to take your own life. If I’d ever doubted it, I’d had one experience that scared me enough not to chance it.

        I’d been married for about ten years when my husband’s youngest cousin, a man about my own age (27 at the time) took his own life. My husband for whatever reason did not attend the funeral so I went with my in-laws. At the gravesite, the pastor said a prayer and concluded it with the usual ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’. As he said the words, he placed two long-stemmed red roses in the symbol of the cross on top of the casket. It was a blue sky, sunshiny day without even the slightest breeze. We’d stood there for at least 15 minutes while preparations had been made for the final prayer and not a leaf stirred. But the moment that minister put those roses onto that casket and said those words, an eerie howling breeze blew the roses off the casket and into the grave. There was a collective gasp from the family and then silence. Not one leaf stirred afterward on any tree or bush.

        It took me weeks to get up the nerve to ask my mother-in-law in private whether she’d seen it the same way I had. She had. I’ve never ever forgotten it and I never will.

        So I guess in my situation it boiled down to whether I was more afraid of being alone for the rest of my life or whether I was more afraid of what it meant when the roses blew off of that casket. The way I saw it, I had no other option but to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’m awfully glad I did.

  8. Emotional chaos. Youthful emotional chaos. No, mine is happening right now, in my old age.

    Thursday a good friend’s sixth grade son died of seizures. Running around laughing one day and dead the next. Friday two good friends lost their jobs that they have had for thirty plus years. This weekend another good friend told us he was getting divorced. Now today, Monday, another friend has lost his job, and I’m leaving in a few minutes for the memorial service for the boy.

    So how do you cope with this? I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out. I will say this, for me it is the faith I have in a God who loves me. Why do such things happen, I don’t know, but I have seen from experience that something good will rise out of the ashes.

    • It’s so hard to see your friends suffering and not be able to do much to help them. In the long run, standing by and keeping in touch, not drifting away, will mean a great deal to them. Still, it’s hard to feel so helpless. My sympathies go out to your friends. There are a lot of hurdles we have to find our way over, under or around in our lives. Hopefully your friends will find their path.

  9. Chaos Theory
    Part One

    How could I do it? I didn’t have any pills, didn’t know what to take or how to get them. I’d moved the wastebasket to my bedside to catch the wads of Kleenexes, sopping from wiping unstoppable tears and a runny nose.

    I didn’t have a gun, either. Wouldn’t know what to do with it if I did. Criminy. What a mess that would make. Or, maybe I’d miss, not hit a vital part, and be paralyzed or wind up a rutabaga, living out my days in a dead end home somewhere.

    Maybe I could ram my car into a rock wall out on the Seward Highway. Ouch. That would hurt. Or, I could walk into Cook Inlet and drown. No way, man. I was afraid of water. Just the thought of not being able to breathe scared the hell out of me.

    But then, that was the point, wasn’t it? Not breathing? Not waking up and having to live through another miserable day of bottomless loneliness, seeing him with her, self-recrimination, finding another job. I couldn’t face that, I just couldn’t. So how could I avoid it? How could I stop my heart, my lungs, and—most of all—my brain. My infernal brain—that mass of gray jelly that tormented me every minute of this long, endless night. And the nights were always worse than the days.

    Please, make it stop. Make the sobbing stop, the tears stop, the headache stop. Just make it all stop. All of it. I can’t do this anymore.

    (to be continued because right now I have to go run the mail route ;>)

    • Loneliness and loss have the power to wring the tears out of us ’til we’re much like a pitiful piece of clothing that’s been put through the wringer on an old washing machine.

      I’m glad you shook yourself back into your previous form and went on to be who you are today.

  10. Ann, I remember those days well. I also remember that I survived because I had no other choice.

    What is the alternative to following the path that lies in front of you? What do you do when you leave home and find that dreams are not always as they seem? What do you do when all of the sudden the person you trusted becomes your greatest source of pain? What do you do when the life you thought you could have quickly vanishes away? What do you do when you have the eyes of two small children gazing upon you? In their minds, they are questioning you, what will happen to them too?

    The answer is simple–you go on. As Barbara says, the only alternative is to make a choice to do the unimaginable. To value yourself with so little regard that you can discard your own life like it is that of a bug.

    How could you possibly choose to rob yourself of experiencing the entire gauntlet of the human condition? Yet so many people have chosen this road.

    How pasty and plain would life be if we all lived along the flat line of a single worry free reality?

    How is it that one would imagine they could truly appreciate the beauty of the sunshine, if at first they had not been dampened by the darkness of rain? How could you appreciate the tender caress of true love without first feeling rejection like a stabbing pain?

    I for one found my strength in God. I trusted that he had put on my plate no more than could be matched by the strength of my soul. I trusted that although I did not understand what it was He was trying to show me, He was indeed preparing me for something greater than I could ever know. For that, I am truly grateful. For that, I choose to go on.

  11. Chaos Haiku

    It’s hell to be young,
    Middle-age ain’t great either.
    Golden years stink too!

    Yet, why do I groan?
    I’m sixty and practicing
    For when I get old!

    But that’s sure stupid.
    I will enjoy my life now,
    And learn not to moan.

  12. Perhaps this belongs under the last exercise, the one about messages. I doubt any of you check back there, so I’m posting it here instead because it has to do with messages and survival after chaos. It’s also at my blog–with pictures.

    Safe Haven

    I dreamed last night of my late husband. He was at his rakish best, dressed in Carhartt coveralls, leaning against a Caterpillar tractor, one leg crossed in front of the other, his arms folded over his chest.

    Under those light brown, well-worn coveralls was the body of a man who worked hard for a living, the muscles of his back, chest, arms, and hands well-developed and strong. On his face was a smile I had seen many times, the times before Alzheimer’s came and took him smile by smile, word by word, thought by thought.

    There was humor and wit behind that smile, and something else, a something that made my heart and lungs pause for just an instant. There was a bit of the bad boy in that smile, that Marlon-Brando-come-to-town-on-a-motorcycle bad boy. That something said life with this guy wasn’t going to be a re-run of some genteel family sit-com. It wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t.

    It was good to see him like that, good to see that smile again. His youngest daughter will say, when I tell her of this dream, that he came to tell us he’s okay now, two years after his death. I won’t dissuade her from that, because for all I know that’s exactly what happened. But, there’s more to his dreamtime appearance, because I had been having a nightmare, what I call a “stress dream.”

    Once again—I have had an endless stream of dreams along this theme—I was cooking in the restaurant we used to own. This time it was breakfast and something was wrong with the eggs. I cracked one, and another egg was inside, and inside, and inside. Finally I reached an egg the size of a marble, and it was cooked. And purple. (I hope this isn’t related to the nesting dolls I brought home from Russia as gifts for the girls across the highway from me.)

    The dining room was full, the order wheel bristling with tickets, and something was wrong with the eggs. Finally, we had to announce we had no eggs, and the dining room emptied. Then the lunch crowd came in and filled the dining room. This time it wasn’t an egg problem. This time, no one would order off the menu.

    They ordered things like “nemesia.” They ordered other things I’d never heard of, and none of them sounded like food. Another announcement and again the dining room emptied. (Ironically, or not, I am halfway through reading Julie and Julia, the story of one woman’s cooking and blogging her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.)

    I hoped it was all a dream and fled out the back door of the restaurant’s kitchen. That’s when I saw him—my husband in his Carhartt coveralls, leaning against his tractor. And that smile. I ran to him and grabbed him, my face close to his and that smile.

    “Tell me,” I begged, “tell me this is all a dream.” And he did, those strong arms circling me and holding me close to him.

    Perhaps the youngest daughter is right. He’s okay now, he has his smile back. As for me, I think there’s another message here, a message about me. After all those years of watching his essence disappear, of being a caregiver, and the one who had to make all the horrific decisions, I’m seeing him whole once again and looking to him for one of the things couples should derive from marriage. I’m looking to him for emotional support, for safe harbor from the storms.

    And to see that smile again.

    • You’ve come full-circle in a way. I’m relieved that your dream brought the man you married back into your arms, at least in your dreams. Perhaps your subconscious is allowing your original husband to block out your difficult memories of that other man who appeared later and eventually left you alone.

      Your dream about the eggs, vanishing patrons, and so on and so forth must have been a nightmarish substitute for a good night’s rest.

      I hope you’ll have recurring dreams of that sexy guy who pulled you close and had the strength and ability to support you when you needed it.

      Your words and all that surrounds them touched me.

    • Your emotion comes through strong in this well written piece. I believe as your daughter does, that the dream was a sign that all the muddled thinking, the confusion and frustrations (perhaps the eggs and the orders), have gone now and he is peaceful and happy. I’m so glad you got to see him like that again so clearly. I hope that part of the dream brings you some peace as well.

  13. Hey, Hai, Hay…

    Somebody read my HAIku up yonder and let me know if it’s fine enough to bed my horse in.

    Neigh… or yeah… or heigh… or hai…(somebody stop me please, anybody out there with a bridle and bit…)

    Never mind…it’s just Shaddy horsing around again. Hee-hee, hai-hai!

    No work today and too much coffee…that’s my excuse for that preceding nonsense.

    • I like your message Shaddy, but haven’t a clue whether or not it’s a true haiku! (hee-hee) I always enjoy your writing.

      • Barb: Did you scroll up to read my Chaos Theory haiku? It’s a few submissions up. I suspect you were looking at my Hey, Hai, Hay…attempt to get somebody’s attention. That definitely doesn’t live up to haiku standards.

    • Yer high coo
      made me ker chew
      All them words
      ’bout old age
      And new
      Made me

      • Oh dear.
        Now I fear.
        Walk is blue
        What do I do?

        High coo or low coo
        Ker chew, ker chew.
        Smile, Walk, smile,
        That’s more your style.

  14. There once was a lass from Beloit,
    Whose haiku about age was adroit.
    She rued all the years
    And cried through her tears
    That aging was too maladroit.

    (I’ve been corrupted by Tom, a limerick whiz who was on my trip to Russia. I may write in iambic pentameter the rest of my life.

  15. Bad poetry has taken over!
    The smiley face has run for cover.
    What else is there to do?
    I’ll write some lame verse too.

  16. There once was a gal named Maureen,
    Whose two cents so seldom is seen.
    She tip toes unheard
    And puts in a word
    Before we’re know she’s at the scene.

  17. There once was a man from OK,
    Who from a straight line would not stray.
    But when he tried verse
    He was soon heard to curse
    That his writing had sunk to horseplay.

  18. There once was a lady named Barb
    Who posted her name without garb.
    But those who write verse
    Were screaming a curse
    ‘Cuz it rhymed with only “rhubarb.”

  19. There once was a gal called DC,
    Whose name hid her identity.
    But her writing was good
    So we all understood
    Her name soon would be on a marquee.

  20. There once was a teacher Linquist,
    Who must be a pure optimist.
    She gives pats on the back
    To her students who lack
    Any talent to be novelist.

  21. help me rhonda help help me rhonda….

  22. There once was a writer who said,
    I am now going to go to my bed,
    I hope sleep will unfix
    My brain from lim’ricks,
    Otherwise you will think me lowbred.

  23. Yes, Shaddy, I did read your Haiku up above and liked it. I’ve never studied poetry, however, so have no idea what’s a Haiku and what isn’t. Seems like fun!

    • To qualify as haiku, a poem needs to possess three lines. The first line requires five syllables, the second line should consist of seven syllables and the third should have five syllables.

      That’s all it takes. It is fun.

      • Barbara Burris

        Did you see the poetry page in the latest Writer’s Digest? It talks about Fibonacci poetry, which is somewhat similar in that each line has a required number of syllables, based on the line prior to it. I tried it this morning. Kind of interesting also.

  24. Not as much fun as lame limericks.

  25. Ok, ya had this one coming……

    There once was gal from Moose Pass,
    Who one could say had some sass.
    She wrote many a verse,
    She had to, it was a curse.
    But it turns out she just had gas

  26. There once was a lass from Moose Pass,
    Who people thought just full of gas.
    So she passed them one day
    Without turning their way,
    And impishly passed them a blast!

  27. There once was a lass from Moose Pass
    Who sat all day on her ass
    Poor Pablo was starving
    But words she was carving
    For the assignment in Ann’s class

  28. A writing instructor named Ann
    Should have told them before they began:
    A limerick’s best
    When its meter is stressed
    Because otherwise it hits the fan.

  29. Good on ya, DanciQ.

  30. There once was a writer who said
    Limericks are something I dread.
    The meter, you know,
    Causes such woe,
    And when she woke up she was dead.

  31. Well, Ann asked for chaos. What better way to deliver chaos than through wretched limericks?

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