Scraps of paper hide the scarred wood of my corner desk. A well-organized person would have placed the sheets of paper in piles, ordered by subject, but I paid no heed to organization. I left each sheet where it fell from my fingers. And it’s not just paper. A plastic mug, the one  I fill with iced tea or water during the day, sits empty on top of a sheet of paper torn from my three by five note pad. The stapler rests askew on the edge of the desk. A yellow plastic twenty-five foot measuring tape offers evidence that, at some point in the recent past, I wanted to measure something nearby. Or, perhaps, it’s simply an indication that I noticed I had the tape measure in my hand when I arrived at the desk and discarded it, rather than return it to its rightful storage space. A business card given to me months ago by someone in another city awaits a decision on its fate. For now, it takes up space. An external drive intended as a backup for my computer peeks from beneath a stack of paper, waiting to be used as it was intended. There’s more. Much more. Evidence of a mind steeped in bedlam.

There should be a word that describes the chaos of disorder the way “cacophony” describes the chaos of noise. I suspect such a word exists. I just don’t know what it is. My lack of knowledge of that real or unreal but required word disturbs me. If I knew the word I would write it on a slip of paper that soon would be lost beneath the litter covering the desk. And one day I would come across the note, thrilled at the reminder of a moment of enrichment of my vocabulary. But I would wonder what to do with the paper. Eventually, I would discard it, knowing full well the gem of knowledge has no value except to trick me into believing I learned something.

Disorder bothers me. My own disorder annoys me even more than others’ disorder disturbs me. Yet I do nothing to permanently correct it. Periodically, I “get organized,” only to allow myself to slip into bad habits of creating stacks of unrelated pages. Soon, they lose the characteristics of “stacks” and take on the attributes of cellulose in open anarchy. Why, I wonder, do I permit myself to foster disorder that so upsets me? Am I punishing myself for failing to produce anything of value out of paper-shuffling? Is my disorder a disorder, as in evidence of a mental rat’s nest in my brain that manifests itself as chaotic disarray? I won’t have the answer to those questions any time soon. I’ve pursued answers my entire adult life, only to find myself lost among answers to questions I haven’t asked.

I value order. I value knowing where to find things. I suppose I just don’t value those things enough to overcome my copious organizational flaws. Perhaps I need a keeper, someone who maintains a firm hand over me, someone who has tools to keep me in line. I don’t want to be controlled, though. I want to be coaxed. Cajoled. Even conned. Tricked into behaving the way I want to behave. I just want an organized desk, a desk that doesn’t distract me from writing meaningful materials. A desk that doesn’t permit me to spend my time, instead, railing about the confusion I find inside my head some mornings. Like this one.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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