Everything around me – even everything in me – is slowly, steadily, dying.

I don’t mean to be morose. It’s just that I have finally accepted what is probably a very basic fact of adulthood: a lot of life is spent just keeping sh*t together. By the time you feel ahead or on top of one thing or another, something else requires attention, and by the time that’s finished your original subject is in need of some kind of work again.

Basic housework is a simple example. How often do I find myself sighing, “But I swore I just cleaned these bathrooms!” Nothing ever just stays statically pristine. Despite researching endlessly when we created a wedding registry, we’ve now broken all but a single teacup and burnt holes in the oven mitts and stained plush blankets. Our fancy vacuum is currently sitting right next to me, in many pieces, tragically dysfunctional. The satisfaction of a shiny countertop is quickly replaced by an urgent need to buy more milk, and the just-vacuumed carpet inevitably suffers a sticky spill. And I don’t even have pets or kids. Sheesh.

I think the same principle applies on a more personal, internal, even spiritual level.

One category is health: of course I know that getting off the chair to go work out is healthiest for me, but there are quite a lot of days where I  just do. not. do. it. Having awareness of what is best doesn’t seem to always (or even often!) lead to corresponding behavior. It’s easy for me to pack my brain with knowledge about fitness and nutrition – especially when I live with a dude who is a total nerd for that kind of stuff – but there is no automatic correlation in my actions. Even my efforts at systemizing the process (like recording my daily water intake to encourage better hydration) usually trail off and eventually fail. Most of the time, despite good intentions, a few healthy habits are barely in order while others are inevitably slipping away.

It’s true in other areas. I’m always a few emails/phone calls/text messages/birthday gifts behind. Work projects that should be straightforward end up domino-ing into endless task lists. I know it would be good for my soul if I woke up a bit earlier to write a bit more in my journal, but the snooze button frequently wins out. Watching TV just sounds a whole lot more appealing, even though I have been wanting to read that book.

There’s even an odd glamorization of this tendency: it’s cool to post photos online of obviously unhealthy meals, or smile while confessing how long it’s been since laundry got done, or backhandedly brag about how crazy busy schedules have made rest and fun impossible.

I like how it’s worded in Romans: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” There’s a certain exasperation the writer seems to feel with himself that I can relate to there. Getting in his own way, stumbling over his own feet, taking two steps back for each step forward.

What’s nice is that, it seems, there does exist a certain tipping point of progress. When the majority of my ducks are all in a row, I do have the rare experience of feeling like I really am gaining ground – in my apartment, my health, my relationships, my general wellbeing. When most things are mostly taken care of, there is space to breathe outloud and survey the landscape. This, I think, the place out of which consecutive steps forward can come.

Probably due to my slightly OCD nature and exceedingly task-oriented ways, I am lucky to actually live out of this space more often than many. But my tendency is to see these things as very black-and-white: “I am so on top of my work! My to-do list is entirely empty! I will venture into new exciting projects! MORE MORE MORE!” or, “The laundry has been in the dryer for days. My life is, therefore, a complete mess. I am drowning in impossible projects. EVERYTHING SUCKS.”

Instead of hoping for perfected control of myself and surroundings, I want to start setting my sights on the tipping point: creating just enough order to serve as a firm foundation for forward motion. I want to beat the entropy while still enjoying the present moment. Even if a bit of laundry goes unfolded along the way.

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One Response to entropy

  1. Simeon Koh says:

    I feel like this all the time! It’s so exciting to read that someone shares my fight against entropy.

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