My family of seven lived in a tiny A-frame house when I was very young, and I shared a bedroom with all four of my siblings. There was a lot of love and a lot of joy. But at the same time, chaos, noise, and mess ruled.
It’s no wonder I grew up treasuring peace and order.
And it’s no wonder I turned to a place of peace and order in my imagination when I began to need it the most.
I don’t remember them particularly, but I began having night terrors when I think I was around 5 or 6 years old. No one told me to try this, let alone even knew that I did this. But I created an exercise that made it easier for me to fall asleep and would help me sleep peacefully the whole night through.
Meditation. I just thought, for the longest time, that it was merely a way for me to fall asleep on nights I struggled. But I described it to my old therapist once, and she was astonished at how perfectly I’d created a guided meditation for myself at such a young age.
For 35+ years now, this meditative dream exercise has not changed. It’s a space I’ve dreamed of since childhood. Adult Lori is in perfect agreement that Child Lori had very good taste in what we’d consider a perfect space. It’s my happy place.
I don’t use this just to help me fall asleep anymore. I use it any time I feel overwhelmed and need to steady the chaos that is frequently the state of my mind.
Imagine yourself within a
perfectly white space.
That’s when the staircase shows up. An elaborate wrought iron spiral staircase leading to a closed door.
Sometimes it’s easy. The door is nearly at the base of the steps and I reach it without much effort or thought.
Mostly, though, it feels like the door is out of reach. I have to stay focused on each step. One at a time. Higher and higher. If I look down or around at all that whiteness I can get dizzy. So I just focus on where I am, what my next step is, and the door I am trying to reach.
Reaching the door by itself feels like an accomplishment. It puts me in the right mindset to face what lies beyond.
What is behind that closed door?
I open the door to a fully finished attic space. Beautiful wood floors. Big windows. A door to a balcony overlooking a view that is never clearly visible – but feels like something magical.
The attic is spacious and bright, yet feels cozy and warm at the same time. I close my eyes and I can picture the room as if it were a photograph.
Yet, when I open the door, I open it to CHAOS.
There are cobwebs everywhere. Dust. Windows caked with so much grime they are hardly recognizable as windows. Papers and books strewn everywhere. Drawers yanked open. Furniture toppled over. Rugs and blankets bunched up or stuck in piles. Pillows tossed every which way.
It is a space meant to give me nightmares.
When faced with chaos, what do I do?
I put chaos to order.
Clear the cobwebs. Scrub the windows clean until they sparkle. Put furniture to rights. Dust and sweep. Vacuum the rugs and then take them outside to beat the hell out of them. Anything I need for cleaning the space is on hand to assist me.
I organize and file the scattered papers appropriately. Books sorted and alphabetized. Pretty things cleaned and set back out for display. There is always a place for everything.
(This aspect of organization is the only part of this exercise that has changed as I’ve gotten older. What Child Lori desired in a place of peace and relaxation is different from what Adult Lori now desires.)
Reflecting my mental health.
It wasn’t until Ann pointed it out that I realized that the state of my attic and the amount of time it took to clean it was directly related to the state of my mental health.
I’m a dunce sometimes.
All I knew was that taking that space that was MINE and making it mine again brought me peace of mind. It relaxed me. It calmed me.
Doing that has been really hard sometimes, though. It’s a fight to not just give up. To stay on task. Just as it’s hard to even make it up the stairs sometimes.
But it helps. Every time I am able to get through the whole process it helps.
And sometimes, on extremely rare occasions… I’ve opened the door looking for something familiar and comfortable, and found everything inside pristine. Nothing out of place. It’s perfect. And all I need to do is fix a cup of tea, open a book, and curl up in a comfy chair to quietly read in peace.