Does neatness count?

Does neatness count?

I’ve often wondered if personal messiness was cause or symptom of an otherwise disorganized life.

When Jacob was using, I tried to ignore it, rationalizing – didn’t all kids go through this phase? Or at least some? Surely he would grow out of it if I let him alone.  There were bigger battles.

But his room screamed chaos.

Tee shirts tossed in piles. Snippets of notebook paper buried in the deep blue rug.  Broken pencils. Gum wrappers concealing wads of chewed stickiness.  Scattered coins, dollar bills, stubs of movie tickets.  A page of math problems, half-finished.

My son, half-finished.

For a time I argued with myself.  It‘s his room.  Doesn’t he deserve some privacy?  And the mess just piled up, like the ruins of one civilization obliterating the next.

But my own need for order prevailed.  Besides, it was my house.  Entering his room, I stepped and picked among the debris.  At least I could toss out a few of the crumpled papers.  Put his tee shirts in the wash.  Throw away the chewed gum.

I tried to ignore the thin sheets of tin foil with the charred line up the middle.  Those I didn’t touch.

Did I think I could straighten him out by straightening his room?

Today  – eight years in recovery – Jacob owns a house.  And in that house he has a walk-in closet.  Recently, he opened its doors to show me the contents. Slacks carefully folded over pants hangers.  Shirts lined up according to color.  Shoes perched on a rack below.

Maybe neatness does count?

And recovery means putting one’s house in order – for both of us.