Once I was rising up in Texas, I used to be organised and tidy – annoyingly so. I went to sleep at evening trying ahead to creating the mattress the following morning, and took nice enjoyment of meticulously washing and drying the dishes by hand and making certain that the vacuum cleaner left exactly proportionate tracks on the carpet.
Someplace down the road, my day by day routines underwent a radical change. After graduating from school in New York, I commenced a lifetime of nearly obsessive-compulsive itinerancy, darting between nations and continents and fleeing the notion of a set residence. I nonetheless continued to build up possessions in all of those nations, which, given the impossibility of travelling with all of them directly, I proceeded to scatter throughout different nations on the abodes of associates and lesser acquaintances.
Whereas the chaotic association was actually liberating in its personal manner, it additionally resulted in a scattered sense of self – whilst I feigned some type of management over my universe by scribbling lists of what belongings I had left the place, eg “LEFT IN BEIRUT: SEQUINED LEGGINGS FROM UZBEKISTAN, 10-KILO BOOK OF PERSIAN POEMS FROM DUDE IN ISFAHAN, ETHIOPIAN BOWL-THING, STRAWBERRY-PATTERNED SOCKS FROM SARAJEVO, RAINBOW DRESS FROM CAMBODIAN SUPERMARKET”, and many others.
However when the coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020, it was not straightforward to keep away from imposing order on my life by remaining in fixed movement. With my former world in lockdown, a 12-day keep within the Mexican coastal village of Zipolite became a month after which six months after which a yr. Nonetheless, I continued to fervently reject any suggestion that I now successfully “lived” there.
Moderately than utilizing this chance to type myself out mentally – to experiment with main one life in a single place, versus quite a few parallel lives in numerous geographies – my answer was a scattering-in-place. Swinging in my hammock in Zipolite, my ideas would lurch at excessive pace between recollections of different cities and nations, as if I have been in some type of competitors to not dwell within the second.
There was additionally loads of bodily scattering, as I continued to build up materials possessions that I couldn’t then offload onto different individuals. Due to the web, I stockpiled all method of inexplicable and pointless gadgets – a behaviour I guiltily categorized as “coronavirus capitalism” – akin to three pairs of excessive heels. This even if I couldn’t even stroll in excessive heels and, in Zipolite, didn’t usually utilise footwear in any respect.
Every morning, I might watch enviously because the village inhabitants went about their matutinal ritual of sweeping and raking all the pieces that could possibly be swept or raked: properties, yards, streets, seashores, dust. I started to stockpile brooms and different accoutrements within the hopes of in the future inaugurating such a seemingly therapeutic routine myself, however this remained within the realm of fantasy and the brooms merely collected mud.
The one routine I used to be capable of keep, it appeared, was considered one of mass dysfunction – which I pursued nearly as if it have been an artwork kind. Strewn throughout each floor of my home have been notebooks, pens, bathing fits, garments I by no means wore as I used to be all the time carrying bathing fits, empty wine bottles, face masks, Mexican pesos, chipotle chiles, bits of paper reminding myself in capital letters to wash, mosquito-zapping rackets, plastic baggage, an empty field that I had labelled “plastic baggage” in preparation for impending organisation, and an outsized stuffed pig I had rescued from tried disposal by a neighbour.
Then there was the ever-present dust and sand, which I not solely tracked in from the seashore but additionally entered of its personal accord – because the home windows needed to be perennially left open in order to keep away from asphyxiation by warmth.
Horrifying as the entire scene was, there was additionally one thing compelling in regards to the problem of remembering which pile of working shorts my tweezers have been beneath or which plastic bag hid my Sri Lankan insect chunk treatment.
To make sure, the mess additionally defied the prospect of permanence that I discovered so terrifying.
Ultimately, although, it turned unsustainable, notably as soon as I began travelling once more – first on intra-Mexican jaunts after which on a two-month tour to Turkey and Albania. Upon every return to Zipolite, suitcases and duffel baggage would stay unpacked on the ground, including to the already plentiful obstacles to middle-of-the-night visits to the bathroom and offering but extra engaging lodging choices for scorpions.
The muddle started to eat me, and I felt myself in an more and more carceral state of affairs as I tried to work on my newest ebook whereas sitting on my sofa wedged between packages of Turkish tea, sun shades, sarongs, electronics, and the plastic cabinets I had ordered from the web however had but to assemble. As common, all the pieces together with me was coated in a layer of sand.
I spent much less and fewer time writing and extra time fretting about what all of this mess meant psychologically. A cursory Google search produced such predictable headlines as “How the Setting We Create is a Reflection of Our State of Thoughts”, “The psychology of house: what does your own home say about you?”, and “Clear up your room to wash up your thoughts”.
My home is me, I instructed myself: comparatively put-together on the surface, a catastrophe on the within. And but I nonetheless couldn’t deliver myself to wash, unimaginable because it was to know the place to begin.
It was solely after not one however two associates had threatened to tie me up someplace and clear the home for me that I wakened at 4:30 one morning and commenced sweeping – first frenetically, because it appeared I might by no means put a dent within the disarray, after which in additional temperate style, because the sand and dust gathered obediently in manageable mounds.
I nonetheless have a technique to go – and doubt I’ll ever attain the purpose of constructing the mattress – however a minimum of the phrases are flowing once more.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.