Chaos, Our Constant Companion



Chaos has been my constant companion of late.

My husband and I packed up a moving truck six weeks ago and relocated to a new city. For months beforehand our living room landscape looked like boxes everywhere, holes in the walls, spaces on the floor to mark the ghosts of furniture past. We’ve been living in a temporary apartment since the move, which a gracious friend offered to us for free while we look for a more permanent place.

It was all going relatively smoothly until this week, when a small leak in the kitchen ceiling turned into a steady rain.

The apartment maintenance staff had to come fix itlike, cover-everything-in-plastic-tarps, cut-a-giant-hole-in-the-ceiling fix it. We move into our new apartment tomorrow, so the timing of this little disaster was downright comedic.

The maintenance man, a soft-spoken immigrant from Poland, came to make the repairs on Monday while I was working from home on some freelance projects. He came in and tarped the living room, dining room, and kitchen with plastic, then proceeded to cut a hole in the ceiling to find the source of the leak. I sequestered myself to the bedroom to stay out of his way. After a few minutes I heard him leave, but I became so engrossed in my work that it wasn’t until a couple hours had passed that I walked out into the kitchen and realized that he hadn’t yet returned. To my dismay, wet insulation and drywall lay strewn about, and a steady stream of water was coming through the hole with nothing to stop it. Panicking, I scrambled up the ladder he had left to put a bucket beneath the hole to catch the leak.

Where was the maintenance man? Did he not realize that the leak was now a free-flowing downpour?!

Totally infuriated, I marched over to the management office to demand answers. They didn’t have any. The administrative assistant scratched his head and responded, “If I see him come by I can send him back to your apartment to check on it?”

How very reassuring. At a loss for words, I marched back to the apartment.

When I opened the door, there was the maintenance guy, replacing the insulation.

“I go upstairs to fix problem in their pipes,” he explained apologetically.

Ohhhhh. Right. That would make sense. I apologized sheepishly and thanked him for his work. Embarrassed by my angry assumptions, I went back to my bedroom. I may be an adult now, but apparently I still haven’t outgrown my need for an occasional time-out.

Maybe the chaos of moments like this one would be easier to deal with if it didn’t feel like the external reflects the internal.

I haven’t been sleeping well at night. In the 3 a.m. darkness, my brain hops aboard the hamster wheel of what if? what if? what if? about settling into our new city. My to-do list haunts me, and so does the chaos of the world around me, the stuff I can’t control. The conflict in Gaza, the racial tension in Ferguson, Missouri, the Ebola outbreak in Africa, the plane that went down in Ukraine, the death of a beloved actor and the suffering of so many that his suicide represents.

Chaos: our constant companion.

My 3 a.m. prayers reflect all the confusion and outrage of that moment when I walk into the chaos and discover that Maintenance has left the building.

God, where are you? Do you not see the downpour? Did you forget the gaping hole?

We don’t have the answers for any of it. Sometimes we scratch our heads and offer up solutions that feel cheap and insufficient.

Today, all I know how to do are the small acts of faith—being present for people, sitting together in the chaos.

Today, all I can do is offer up the only healing words I know: “Me too. Me. Too.

Sometimes it’s enough to catch the downpour. Sometimes it’s enough to just usher in a moment of peace.


Image credit: Korona Lacasse