Zen and the art of chaos maintenance

Just a few hours ago, I submitted the first short story I have written since leaving school to a competition run by a local book festival.  The competition opened for entries mid August and closes today. I happened across the competition, however, the day before yesterday (a particularly busy day, including a final assessment for my bread-and-butter-incase-i-don’t-make-it-as-a-writer proofreading and editing course).

(On occasion I like to put a positive spin on things and I think, when I managed to find time to sit down and write, that the adrenalin actually helped. My less positive side must have taken over subconsciously earlier, when I was working up a few story ideas, as the first three were dark, darker and, well, a bit grim*).

There is a good reason why I hadn’t come across the competition before then. Quite simply, it was because I am a chaos magnet.  

Chaos magnetism on its own is not enough, of course. I sometimes have to put quite a bit of absentminded effort into creating my own chaos. For example, our local amenities have fairly minimal opening hours – as tends to be the case in small rural communities. The village shop opens most mornings then one afternoon for a few brief moments only (like something out of a Terry Pratchett novel). Somehow, I seem to be the only person who arrives, breathless, one-three small children in tow with some last-minute-remembered messages**…   just after they have closed, or a good 2 hours before they’re due to open. I have their opening times written down. I just don’t know where (at least when I need them, when I’m looking for, say, my driving licence it’s a different matter).

On friday I was meeting friends after dropping the older two at school. My petrol gauge was showing empty (it seemed to be on the verge of a minor panic attack). I stopped at a petrol station, checking (before I filled up) that I had my cash card because… I frequently don’t. 9 times out of 10, after using my card I shove it in a pocket, the car ashtray…etc***. So back to friday – no cash card. Not in my pockets, my bag, the car. I drive home and ransack my house. Not there. I’m in the middle of phoning my mum for an emergency loan (and a 20 minute round trip – for her – cos I don’t think I have enough petrol) when I spot G’s jacket. Which I wore yesterday. Because I forgot to feed the chickens in the morning – when it was dry – and my jacket got soaked feeding them in a Scottish monsoon (otherwise known as a typical autumn day) later on. So, I wore G’s jacket to take the kids to their prepaid swimming lessons, where I paid to replace the goggles G had lost the previous week (my magnetism must be rubbing off on him). By card. Which I then shoved in his jacket pocket. Which was now hanging in front of me. Sigh. I explain to my mum that our phone call is now redundant, and give details. She sounded quite confused…

In the past, a minor mishaps like this might have stressed me out. I’m more relaxed now, accepting the inevitable – a blessing given I share a(n extremely cluttered) house with 3 small boys and a man. So long as I keep an eye on the zen/chaos balance (too much zen, and chaos starts to overwhelm), I can handle even my lion’s share of chaos. 

*I went with the dark one.
** in Scotland you’re ‘away for your messages’ when you go shopping.
*** Much the same thing applies to my car keys, my phone and my shoes – though I obviously need to find larger hiding places for them.

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