Sorting Things Out

I’ve spent the last twenty-four hours with a woman that I love. She is in a very unique spot in her life, recently released from the psych ward and waiting to go into a rehab. There is a little window in between and I decided to spend that time with her, not knowing what to expect.

She is currently her best self I have seen in years, speaking rationally and not defensively. It has been a pleasure to be in her company, since I missed this woman immensely. It is a time of hope. And sorting.

I didn’t know what my role would be in making this trip. Emotional support? Practical help? She has some business to take care of before she leaves her home for six weeks, but she wants to do things that seem trivial. Specifically, she seems determined to organize her mother’s things. We’ve spent most of the visit sorting through old clothes and costume jewelry, deciding what is worth keeping and what is not. Our visit has been peppered with nostalgia, as certain items evoke memories of childhood.

To an outsider, this might seem impractical use of our time. This sorting could wait until she is released, nothing is urgent and there are other things that need to be done. Yet I understand the need to sort.

At a low point in my life, when I felt stuck in a marriage that was damaging my emotional health, I ran obsessively. Sometimes I ran and ran and ran laps around the block, tracking my time, working on my speed. It served as something I could quantify and control. I could track progress at a time when I felt pretty powerless.

I also enjoyed Sudoku puzzles during that period. They were solvable, if I was persistent. I needed to solve problems. I needed my power back.

Sudoku is a lot like sorting, but instead of putting clothes in a “keep, wash, or goodwill” bag, it involves putting numbers in their right spot. It takes time to sort out a jumbled life, but maybe sorting small things is a way to relax the mind while the big things get sorted out. One drawer at a time.


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