A Blind Leap From Order to Chaos
A few years ago, I said good-bye to my last accounting job. I bid a not-so-fond farewell to Corporate America and took the first step towards following my true passion; writing. At first, I reveled in the lack of structure; the removal of specified times to rise and shine. I was grateful to be able to choose the times I worked, played, or imitated a sloth at random.
But old habits die hard and the need for at least a little structure in my life reared it’s ugly head (along with the need to actually be productive for a few hours each day). I realized I needed to set up specific days, if not times, if I wanted to create better habits for my health and finances.
These days, my alarm is set for 8AM (on the clock that’s still set 20 minutes fast to allow for snoozing). I have specific days for going to the gym, and specific workouts for each of those days. And one day a week is set aside (after going to the gym, of course) for running errands.
Structure With a Side of Chaos
Though the day is specific, the errands follow a somewhat flexible pattern. Somewhere along the way, I go to Sprouts for fresh vegetables and to fill my 5 gallon water bottle. My favorite stop, though, is at Trader Joe’s for berries, dairy, and to see what they’re cooking up for samples.
I realized today why it’s my favorite stop. No matter how crowded or chaotic the place might be, the employees are always friendly, helpful, and downright happy to be there (or else they’re incredible actors!) They cheerfully skirt the kidlets with what I consider the worst idea in retail ever: miniature shopping carts. They help people like me find something that’s right in front of their face without making us feel stupid. But most important of all, they share a little of themselves as they’re handing you a sample, totaling your purchases, or helping you find something. They even make waiting in line pleasant!
Trader Joe’s: A Model for Order from Chaos
Heaven knows a retail establishment of any kind encompasses a certain amount of chaos, but a grocery store, and especially one like Trader Joe’s could be a logistic nightmare—and yet, it isn’t. The one I frequent recently got a much-needed, and long overdue expansion when their next door neighbor in the strip mall they occupy moved out. For a couple of weeks, the ceiling looked more like my gym than a grocer. Some aisles were too narrow to push a cart through, as inventory was moved to temporary shelving while walls were moved and cases for frozen food, dairy, and produce were relocated.
Still, the employees maintained their usual happy demeanor, making jokes about the latest version of chaos in their world. Truth be told, I’m still trying to find my way around, though the expansion has been complete for a few months now. I finally remember the coffee is on the opposite end of the store, above the veggie burgers now. I’m still trying to remember where the larger containers of my favorite yogurt live. They’re not where I expect them to be, so I invariably stand in front of the case with a look of confusion on my face until the light bulb comes on and I see what I’m looking for just a little further to the left.
When all is said and done, I appreciate the changes they’ve made to my favorite store, especially as it has given me a few more choices in the process. I love choices, and most of the time, I love change too. I don’t always handle it as effortlessly as the staff at Trader Joe’s, but invariably, I’m grateful for the experience.
Finding Our Own Happy Medium
I started this post talking about structure vs. chaos, then went off on a tangent. (no surprise there). The truth is, I’ve learned these last few years that I don’t do well in a world of either/or. I need a certain amount of structure, but within that structure, there has to be flexibility as well. Not so much the flexibility to bounce back when everything goes to hell in a handbasket, though admittedly, I’ve had a few of those. More like the flexibility to end up on a client call in the morning which pushes back my trip to the gym by an hour or two. Or being able to work longer hours to get all my blog posts written and scheduled so I can go out of town for a few days.
I love being able to give myself a beach day in the middle of the week while most people are at school or work. Though I was eternally grateful there were a few kind-hearted men who rushed to my aid when I misjudged the street parking and got stuck in the sand.
Using My Skills
Years ago, I had a friend whose OCD went nuts when he’d walk into my office. Yet he had to admit I knew where everything was and could put my hands on anything he asked for. He dubbed my system “organized chaos”. In the last four or five years, I realize how apt the description is. My unique approach to things has also taught me how to make order from other peoples’ chaos, earning me another title from the same friend: “Queen of the books from hell”.
Maybe that’s why I love working with small businesses. In so many cases, the accounting is the last thing they want to deal with after managing the thousand and one details necessary to keep their business running. So by the time they realize it’s time to get help, those books and records are a rat’s nest I love to jump in and untangle. Once again, order from chaos.
Give Me Tools To Stay Organized So I Can Cut Loose
I never thought I’d need to use the techniques I learned in my years as an accountant to manage my own life. These days, I have goal sheets for each week and Trello boards for various parts of my business and personal life. I love my tools, and not just the big red toolbox-full in my garage.
The latest application to organize, compile, or schedule sends me into fits of ecstasy. A meet-up via Zoom spanning several continents is enough to make me swoon with delight. I love technology, even when it’s disobeying my commands, because I know from all my years fighting the limitations of accounting software that I will ultimately get my way.
Learning to work your way past obstacles is the key to managing change with grace and good cheer. If you ask me, as long as you approach each change as an adventure; as a mountain to climb and conquer, you’ll be as happy as a pig in mud. It’s not so much the change many people dread, but a new chapter to be written on your own terms. What could be better?
Choosing Our Own Personal Level of Change
Many people hate change. They listen to their mind which insists on maintaining the status quo, but also has no sense of adventure or challenge. They miss out on so many wonderful new things which necessitate leaving the preconceived notions behind and working with a new and unfamiliar set of tools. There is a place for people who are content with doing the same things in the same order for years on end, just as there’s a place for people who push the envelope every minute of the day. There’s also a place for those of us who are somewhere along the continuum, between the extremes. Some are innovators, some are maintainers, and the rest are a combination of both.
There are touchstones in my life; my home, my cats, my family, my friends, my dancing, and my weekly schedule. It’s because of those touchstones I’m comfortable going out on a limb or trying something completely outside my comfort zone. I know if my latest adventure goes south, I have someplace to retreat to, to lick my wounds, evaluate what went wrong, and jump back on the horse who threw me. Maybe that’s why I like a little chaos in my life. If nothing else, it makes me appreciate the places where I’ve created a semblance of order.
And Expressing Gratitude for it All
I am so very grateful for the people, places, and things in my life which make this unconventional way of living possible.
My gratitudes tonight are:
- I am grateful for the courage and desire to move past what I know and experience what I know will make me grow.
- I am grateful for opportunities to meet new people, try new things, and even reinvent myself.
- I am grateful for change. It makes life interesting and shakes up my world so I don’t become complacent…and bored silly.
- I am grateful for my writing which is an adventure in and of itself. I never know when a door might open or a possibility arise. But the people I meet along the way enrich my life in ways I’d never have imagined before I began this journey of faith.
- I am grateful for abundance; friends, family, health, beauty, inspiration, energy, love, believing in the impossible, new things to learn, growth, evolution, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your authentic self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author