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Everything in Its Place

Out in the world, people can put stuff wherever they want. Touch whatever they want.

But in my house, in my space, everything has a place. And I hate it when things are not where they are supposed to be.

When I was a little girl, I loved to pretend I was a grown-up.

I did this by wearing my grandmother’s high-heeled shoes that made the teacher click-clack sound on the tile floor and putting a bunch of stuff in one of her old purses so I could comb through it, looking for things.

Nothing said “glamorous female” to me like delicately rummaging through a purse.

I would imagine myself out on the town, sunglasses on, but my lips feel naked. I need some lipstick. But where is it?

I would drop one purse strap off my shoulder, angle the purse in front of me, and start digging.

I’d need to shift the contents of my purse this way and that.

Where is my lipstick?

Rummage. Comb. Dig.

I felt so fancy.

The hilarious truth is that if that was ever my reality, there would be nothing glamorous about the sight and nothing fancy about the feeling.

I hate wasting time looking for things. In my real purse … let’s get real … in my backpack, there is a specific spot for my … chapstick. I know exactly where it is. If I notice it’s getting low, I buy more so I never run out.

I hate being caught without something I need. I hate running out of things. And I hate not knowing where something is.

Everything has a place.

I know that at the core of this is the belief that there isn’t enough. Not enough time (so I can’t waste it rummaging through my purse for my lipstick). Not enough resources. Or the fear there won’t be enough, so I have to replace anything that is running out before it actually does. Put all this together, and there should never be a reason to go searching for anything.

In 2011, my husband, Judah, and I bought a three-bedroom house in Queens, NY. Since that time, we have hosted many gatherings and events. We have more space than most of our friends so it just makes sense.

But hosting … especially parties … stresses me out.

Food stresses me out. I have a lot of food allergies and have rendered myself useless at putting together a menu of food that I can eat that anyone else would also want to consume.

I am not a decorator. I love looking at a well-themed shin-dig, but I am not the person to plan or carry out such an endeavor.

Reminder: everything has a place. I don’t like wasting time looking for things that should be in their place.

When other people touch my stuff, it tends not to find its way back to its original location.

Hosting get-togethers has been a good lesson in boundaries and sharing. You know, things you’re supposed to learn in elementary school.

Through much grating on my “that doesn’t go there” and “don’t use that one” nerves, specifically in the kitchen, I got to a place where I simply told people to help themselves. And then I got as far away as possible.

Our house once hosted a thirty-person bridal shower. I did not plan the food, make the food, or serve the food. I was not in the kitchen when things were touched or used or moved or … handled.

It may have been my house, but I was just a guest.

I had an express understanding with my friend who was hosting the party that I didn’t want to be in the kitchen unless absolutely necessary. She had my permission to touch and use anything she needed. I just didn't want to see it or know about it.

I got to a place where parties could be hosted at our house and my blood pressure could remain in a healthy range so long as I had nothing to do with the planning, over-seeing, or carrying-out of them. In time, I was able to engage more. I’ve never gained the desire to plan and host a big event, but I’ve learned how to do an okay job. And to allow other people to touch things in my kitchen. Without fighting off stomach ulcers and a grumpy disposition.

In an effort to counteract, and hopefully silence or tone down, the alarm bells inside me when people touch my stuff, I have intentionally put myself in a place to face the music.

I think people with fancy degrees might call this immersion therapy.

In 2015, Judah and I purchased a car with money my maternal grandmother gifted us. Living in NYC, I never expected to buy a car. I also never expected to live in a house. With a garage.

For the first couple of years, we rented the garage to a neighbor who actually had a car. It was a great setup for both of us.

The neighbor moved, our garage became available, my grandmother gifted us the money, and we went for it.

Before owning a car, we had friends who let us borrow theirs a time or two.

One of the more memorable car borrowing experiences was for Judah’s thirtieth birthday. We borrowed a friend’s car so I could drive Judah upstate and take him skydiving as a surprise. There’s no way that could have happened without their generosity.

I deeply valued their willingness to hand us the keys and not bat an eyelash.

Could I do the same?

It was one thing to walk out of the kitchen while someone else touched my pots and pans, used knives to cut butter that I used to cut meat. It was something else entirely to hand over keys to an expensive (to me) car and let someone leave my sight with my possession. Touch all the things.

It was a good exercise for me. Handing over my stuff.

All of it.

It feels scary.

But also good.

The lay person’s version of immersion therapy seems to be working. The alarm bells aren’t silent or non-existent, but they are much quieter.

At the end of the day, it’s just stuff. There will be more.

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