Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kilroy was here.

I think I have discovered something in Chronic Disorganization I will call the
“Kilroy Was Here Syndrome.”

Discovered in myself first, quite by chance, I think it can only happen if you live in a house with other people, but I might be mistaken, since I’ve never lived in a house without other people.

Let me tell you my story.

I came out one morning to our nice clean kitchen. (I’d like you to believe it is that way every morning, but alas, the kitchen is one of my own personal issues.) I was happy that the Messy Fairies had left it alone overnight. I was the first one up, and I had used a water glass. As I was about to go through my self-questioning (Do I leave it out? Do I put it in the dishwasher right now?), I was thinking that if I put it in the dishwasher (as my Organizer Fairy was urging me to do), wouldn’t my spouse be proud of how conscientious I had been by putting it away right then?

And then another, more sinister thought (must have been from the Messy Fairy) entered my head. “If I put this glass away, he will not notice that I have put it away. He will not realize that I was even in the room. He will only notice that I have been in the room if I leave the glass out!

For a moment, I almost decided to leave the glass out! (I didn’t—I put it in the dishwasher.)

But it made me wonder about myself and my clients. Are we sometimes messy because we subconsciously (or unconsciously—I’m never sure which) want someone, anyone, to know that we have been there? Our own little “Kilroy Was Here” graffiti that confirms our existence to others.

It was a surprising thought, true at least for me.

When I see a mess my precious daughter has left behind, I try not to get angry, but remember that it is because we have a child (something we had really, really wanted), that we now have a mess in the house, or a toy tossed here or there. Shall I choose to look at it as another mess to clean up left by my ungrateful daughter? A task to remind my child about when she gets home? Or simply a token of her existence for which I am grateful every day, and I can easily and quickly swoop it up and put it where it needs to go? (With a smile on my face thinking about the day she was born, or the wonderful drawings she’s always making for us.)

The same can be said for things a spouse leaves behind—socks here and there, a towel on the floor, a dish out of place. I am often reminded of letters to Dear Abby and Ann Landers from widows who would give anything to have these messes back in the house if only their husbands were still there, too.

Now, that's not to say that I'm not teaching my daughter to clean up after herself (she's only in first grade, we have years left to work on it!) or that I'll excuse my spouse's messiness every time. But it does mean I'll try to lighten up on myself and the tapes I play in my head when I confront a mess--mine or theirs. I can also choose to still be conscientious about cleaning up after myself and still find ways to leave my mark. Cutesy things are fun and easy--a note in the lunch box, or the bathroom mirror. Or just a hug when they get home and an easy, "I love you, and I'm so glad to see you."

I can remember which "mark" I want them to see and how they might be thinking of me when they see it. Just as easily as I can choose which thoughts I will think when I see their "marks."

Have a great week!

Margaret was here.

(Clink the links on either today's title or the graphic to learn more about the original "Kilroy Was Here" drawing. He was quite popular during WWII and there are a number of legends, myths and information about how he came to be.)

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