It’s a Mess Around Here


I’m sitting in the middle of a mess.

I decided to take a break, momentarily leaving the mess to rest and put these thoughts on paper. Well, you know what I mean.

Earlier this Saturday morning, Judy and I returned from a wonderful breakfast at our favorite local eatery. Judy shifted the mood. “Bruce, your office is a mess! Doesn’t Jerry Jenkins advise that where you write is critical to being a great writer?” She stepped into the office surveying the two computer screens, the various short stacks of papers, three piles of books, my briefcase satchel with an almost out-of-date projector and my old computer. The computer is a little sad having done yeoman-like service and now sitting against the wall with no cords, attached to nothing. “I can’t believe that you’ve still got your hat collection displayed on the shelves where you could put your books?” Now she was getting close to my soul as those hats represent 40 years of travel and worldwide experiences.

Upon closer inspection, I realize that there are 4 inboxes, too, each filled with important stuff. All stuff covered with good intentions and commitments to future action. With the launching of the Live with Meaning Foundation and the (now being written) book, Retirement Reformation, I’m clearly at a crossroad and I need to make some decisions.

 As a matter of fact, committing to the obvious but painful solution, I’ve now collected and piled almost 30 books on the round office conference table.  At least they, the books of all types, are off the counter top and my extended desktop. In order to make room for them on the table, there is now even more stuff on the floor. “Beautiful day”, I muse staring out the window. The guilty feeling of procrastination starts to well up prompting re-focus and forcing the already recognized priority of Judy’s directive, “everything with a place and everything in place”.

I don’t know about you, but when someone I love and respect directs a “truism” on me, I get a little defensive. “Ugh, it’s not as bad as it looks and I can straighten it out easily.” Sure I can.

When we designed our home in the Black Forest of Colorado Springs, Judy designed what she affectionately designated her “Command Center”. Yes, a place for everything and everything in its place. For her first Christmas in our house, I found an old school craftsman to make a red neon sign that aggressively declares, “Judy’s Command Center”. You ask, “What does she have in her Command Center”. As I explain to guests who wonder, “Her desk, file cabinet, computer, sewing machine, paper shredder, paper cutter, ironing board, drawers bursting withsupport papers and utensils, stamps and envelopes, a contemporary washer and dryer, sink, and upper cabinets with tools, bottles of cleaning stuff, and a hand drill dangling a long orange cord.”

As I write this, a new vision of what my office can be starts to emerge. After all, I did design it at the same time Judy designed her Command Center. When the design emerged, I remember thinking about the size, function, and experience that I wanted in the office. “It must have gotten lost during the normal activities of daily living stretching out over the last year or so”. I think I can reclaim that vision if I focus, prioritize, and organize.

Dedication to a cause and the perseverance needed to accomplish it are important personal attributes.

I’ve learned that without them, not much happens, and they are now part of who I am.  Applying those traits to my office space is what Judy is challenging me to do leading to a result that I want too. Although, it’s taken me a very long time to acknowledge the obvious.

Re-organizing my writing and study space is now taking on a life of its own. First, the fact of a random mess needs to grow, not diminish. The reason is that the old files in my office file cabinet need to move downstairs to join the family archives that go back a generation. Once that’s done, then the sad storing of my “hats of travel and history” begins. The white plastic container sits in the middle of the room waiting for the gray locking lid to be attached and then to transport it to those same archives, on the lower level. A certain sadness goes along with these acts starting the new direction understandably coupled with an energizing tinge of anticipation.

Judy just came home from her Saturday journey of visits to the Library, local thrift store, laundry, and picking up what is needed for the rest of the weekend. She peeks in again, rolls her eyes, and concludes, “Oh boy”. I am quick to remind her that “You have to clean out before you can clean up”. She nods knowingly and heads for “Judy’s Command Center”. The neon sign isn’t on, but it soon will be.

I’ve written enough to make the point of this missive.

Acknowledgment of a problem is the first step to its solution.

Then, my Grandfather’s key insight, “A job once begun is half done.” Finally, vision, purpose, and perseverance will take you to a better place.

Now I need to follow my own advice and finish the job. It really is “a mess around here.”


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