“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star“

Frederich Nietzsche

Chaos intrigues me. It is defined as “complete disorder and confusion” with synonyms including disorder, disarray, disorganization, confusion, bedlam, and mayhem.

Most people probably react to those words thinking they would string garlic around their necks or sage their houses relentlessly to keep away the chaos. Not me. In my 53 years of life, I have mostly lived inside a tornado of chaos. I have often felt powerless against the chaos, reacting by covering my eyes, trying to hide and protect myself while it was swirling around me, kicking up dust in its wake, leaving me confused and stunned.

I have contemplated my relationship with chaos many times over the years and generally came to the same conclusion which is that I probably should do my best to avoid it. Yet, even when bright red flags made themselves apparent to me, I walked directly into the eye of the storm. I suppose this is because chaos is so familiar to me and has become part of my operating system. My mother, for instance, was the embodiment of chaos. Her unpredictability, going from loving to violently hateful, prevented me from being able to establish the roots a child needs to healthily grow into a tall, strong tree. I inherently understood that so I learned to cope. My marriage was similar. I ached for consistency and predictability but instead found myself scratching my head, trying to understand what was happening. It was chaotic and noisy and difficult to manage. But I learned to cope. Perhaps, in some ways, I have drawn chaos into my orbit.

Avoidance never worked because, even when I was faced with situations or relationships that were overtly chaotic, I would enter willingly with my eyes wide open. Each and every time, the chaos would overtake me, disrupt my homeostasis, and poison me. I would ingest the chaotic fumes and cough and choke, falling to my knees, incapable of finding a vaccine to protect myself. However, after enough interactions and experience, rather than learning to avoid the chaos, I learned how to manage it. It took many years but, with it being such a prevalent force in my life, I evolved naturally to understand how to process chaos and turn it into magic.

One of my friends often compliments me on my ability to manage lots of random pieces of information and extract some level of understanding that can be parlayed into a meaningful outcome. He is seeing me take chaos and organize it in a manageable way. What he is tuned into is how I apply Chaos Theory to my own life.

Chaos theory has a few important principles, starting with one you’ve probably heard of – the butterfly effect. This principle suggests that the cause of a typhoon off the coast of Japan can be traced to a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico. According to the butterfly effect, if the butterfly had never flapped its wings, the typhoon would never have happened…[The] initial conditions are extremely important, and they have a major impact on the outcome of things. Another important principle of chaos theory is unpredictability…We can never possibly know every single initial event of a complex system. This means the the ultimate outcome of an event is never truly known. We can’t possibly accurately predict most things because even very small errors or oversights could change the outcome.

Chaos theory makes sense to me. It aligns with how I look at the world and how I approach problem solving. I realize that one small change, one minor event can change everything and you have to be prepared for many different outcomes. Some say I am an overthinker or an overplanner but, in fact, I have equipped myself with coping strategies to deal with chaos. That is how I survived my childhood. That is how I survived my marriage.

I never considered how this might impact my life other than allowing me to deal with difficult situations. I never considered that chaos could actually be advantageous in my life or that it would provide me with something truly positive. Then I met a guy and it all came together.

Early in the summer, I went on a date. He was handsome and definitely intrigued me but we seemed so incredibly different that I never imagined it would or could lead to a meaningful relationship. He did not fit into my perception of the ideal partner because he was not neatly organized into a box that I could understand. He was chaotic. He had lots of thoughts and ideas and readily shared them with me. His brain moved at the speed of light and, within seconds, we could move from talking about the flowers in my garden to the interconnectedness of the universe. He shared his beliefs about the synchronicity that exists in our lives and confidently asserted that we were meant to meet. It made my head swim but I wasn’t sure if it was tantalizing or terrifying. Nonetheless, I went on date after date because my curiosity kept growing. Our differences challenged me but our chemistry was palpable so I kept telling myself that it would be a fun summer fling. I expected that in due time our contrasts would surface more evidently and the interest on both our parts would wane.

Each time we went out, this man kept reinforcing how alike our minds were. Initially, I disregarded these comments because I didn’t agree that my mind was as fast moving as his. Plus, how could he possibly make this type of assessment so quickly? He had so little information to figure this out. Despite my ability to process and juggle large amounts of information, in comparison to this guy, I felt boring and methodical. However, his insistence piqued my curiosity further so I allowed myself to consider he saw something in me of which I was not acutely aware.

Week after week, my resistance dissipated more. Rather than my interest waning, it grew more intense over time. I challenged myself to look deeper to understand what was different from my first analysis of our connection. It took several months but I finally recognized that he represented a whole different kind of chaos for me. He was the magical chaos. Our relationship was the butterfly effect – that one moment in time that we met caused an imperceptible shift in the universe. We were drawn together and, regardless of much I resisted, dominoes started falling and the impact would be significant.

This man is chaotic but in the most beautiful ways. He is disruptive but in ways that makes my heart beat faster and my mind spin imaginatively. I am now tuned into how his mind works and it excites me rather than scares me. I have been able to create order by carefully listening and paying attention to his behavior. He is not mayhem, he is robust and exceptional. He is not confusing, he is complex and ever so fascinating. Gently and delicately, protecting me every step of the way, he pushed me outside my comfort zone and helped me accept that chaos is a fundamental part of my life. My ability to discern positive chaos from negative chaos is the critical understanding. Running from chaos would have meant running from this man – this mystical man – who has helped to create calm and peace in my life with his exquisite chaos.

I am grateful that I try to follow my gut and ignore my tendency to focus on my intellect. My analytical brain would have crossed him off the list while my heart pushed me to go deeper. He didn’t look like any chaotic person I have met before because his intentions were pure and he embodies love. And, really, those are the most important boxes that need to be checked.

This time, chaos has brought me nothing but happiness. I’m a lucky woman.

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