Chronicles of Turning 40: The 4 Stages of Chaos

Chaos, we all have it. Some of us have more of it than others. Some of us have less of it, or at least appear to have less than others. Most likely, you know where you fall on the continuum and it probably differs depending on the day. (The black cloud of chaos tends to hang out over my world most days)

Chaos, however, should be viewed and judged relative to yourself and your own personal situations. Do not get caught up comparing your chaos to other people’s chaos. It is very easy to do, and very hard to keep from doing it. Other people’s chaos always looks better than yours.

I do feel though that there are 4 stages of chaos that tend to correlate with your current point in life. However, you have to achieve the 4th stage before you can appreciate that the other 3 stages of chaos exist and that you went through them. And there will be times that you go back through the previous stages all over again. Keep in mind, I am writing these from my perspective that I have achieved or happen to be currently in Stage 4. They are:

  • Disorganized Unchaos (1)
  • Organized Unchaos (2)
  • Organized Chaos (3)
  • Disorganized Chaos (4)

Stage 1

Disorganized Unchaos:

I feel this stage of chaos occurs when you are in college or first living out on your own. You have no idea how good you have it at this stage. It is unchaos because you are living the ultimate dream. Freedom, time, not too many bills, all great things. Yes, you might have classes or jobs, but you still have more than ample time for socializing, relaxing, sleeping in, and even enjoying hobbies. (Sleeping in, what a concept!)

The disorganization is because you are still young. Your frontal lobe hasn’t quite yet achieved its full development. So you are still slightly impulsive and developing your maturity. You don’t yet have the full insight to be an adult even though you live in the adult world. You probably even still rely greatly on your parents. Knowing all of this, your life probably isn’t as organized as it could be. Although, there are times that you are hovering or maybe even moving into Stage 2. So, disorganized unchaos….

Stage 2

Organized Unchaos:

This stage takes place when you are recently married or now have your first real life job. Again, you still don’t know how good you have it. You are most likely still living the dream, and now have a little more money in which to live out that dream. Travelling, dining out at nice restaurants vs eating your Ramen noodles during Stage 1. Still have time for those hobbies, and you may have even attained some new hobbies because you finally have some money in your pocket to buy what you need to do them. Or at least, not having to ask your parents for money for them.

This unchaos has now moved into a more organized fashion. You have grown up, and now have major responsibilities. This is the stage of chaos that people in Stage 3 and 4 often dream about returning to on a regular basis. So, organized unchaos….

Stage 3 Organized Chaos and Stage 4 Disorganized Chaos:

For those who know me, organized chaos is one of my most favorite expressions, and it is typically fitting for most every scenario I encounter during the day. Kids, work, family life, and trying to squeeze in the occasional night out for fun. Shuffling from one daunting task to the next, over and over again. Despite how much it is organized or not organized, you remain fairly consistent in your processes…get to school routine, work routine, homework routine, after school activities routine, bedtime routine. You are doing pretty much doing the same routines day in and out here.

Notice the use of the word routine here. Life has necessitated that you create routines in order to exist and somewhat maintain your sanity. Those days of freedom and doing things on your own time are long gone, merely vast memories of the good old days.

However, now you have moved into more of a true definition of chaos in my opinion. Many more moving pieces and parts. Many more moving variables which are often not in your control. Much more potential for things to go south in a hurry. So, with your perfect little routines, you exist in organized chaos (perfect, hysterical choice of words).

Because things can go south in a hurry and those perfect routines can be broken quickly, disorganized chaos is always right around the corner. That’s why I feel these catagories are close together. Often it only takes 1 or 2 small things to occur, and you have moved head over heels into full, unbridled disorganized chaos. Once you get there, it is extraordinarily difficult to get back to Stage 3.

When you are in Stage 4, you spend a great deal of time reminiscing about prior stages and wishing for the way things used to be. If you could just put that time and energy into getting out of Stage 4, you would most likely be back in Stage 3, or possibly even Stage 2 at times. Again, really difficult to do.

I don’t remember my childhood feeling like organized chaos. Perhaps that’s because my mom and dad did an amazing job of being parents and helped shield us from the chaos. (They are great parents and I am grateful for everything that have done and do for us everyday along with the sacrifices they made to get us where we are today). Or maybe as kids, you just don’t notice those things.

Not sure what the case is, but life today seems more chaotic even though we have many more modern conveniences which, in theory, should make life less chaotic for us. And we seem to spend a great deal of time, or at least perceived time, in Stage 4.

It’s interesting though. As much of a struggle that Stage 4 is, it’s often said you will miss it when it’s gone. Kids will be grown up, having moved into their own stages of chaos. Most likely here, you will be back in Stage 2, or perhaps 3 depending on what stage your kids are in and how much they still need you. But far different from the crazed pace of disorganized chaos.

When you are in the heat of disorganized chaos, you can’t imagine there will ever be a time that you get to sleep in, wash just own clothes, eat at a restaurant of your own choice that doesn’t have a kids menu, or go one full day without hearing someone call you mom. But those days will come, as I am told, so enjoy the craze of chaos while you can. There may even be some of us who develop dementia or other memory issues, and forget all about our Stages of 2 through 4. Then you are back in Stage 1, completely disorganized in an unchaotic environment. Funny how life comes full circle at times.

For now, I live in between Stage 3 and 4. I dream for the days of sitting back, relaxing and drinking a glass of wine without interruption. Long talks, a soak in a jacuzzi, a nap….I could keep going, but chaos is calling me back.

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