“In the midst of chaos there is opportunity.” Mary sibande (artist)

This article has been inspired by Mary Sibande, a South African artist, whose work entitled ‘I came apart at the seams’, was recently on exhibition in London. Sibande’s work illustrates how South Africans have grappled and continue to grapple with the effects of apartheid. Her work emphasises the stranglehold of injustice and discrimination. Yet her overriding message was positive and clear, “In the midst of chaos, there is opportunity.”

The chaos of life is, at times, overwhelming. The struggle to make sense of it can seem never ending and confusing. It is often fraught with risk and decisions, which appear profound. Chaos can easily take hold of every aspect of our lives and, as if holding onto our chests and throats, it gives no room to breathe. If given space, it squeezes the very life out of us, slowly, to the point where it becomes almost impossible to imagine a reprieve from its oppression.

Chaos does not know gender. Highlighting its dangerous impact on men’s mental and physical health is of utmost importance.  Finding alternative ways of dealing with its effects and an outlet for the resulting anxiety and stress is a pressing issue. Men resist asking for help and tend to view a chaotic state and the need for support as being a sign of weakness.

We treat chaos as if it is something terrible, something to be avoided and controlled. As men, we travel through life walking a tight rope, treading carefully, purposefully and controlling every aspect in order to avoid falling into the chaos, which creates a bitter, inner struggle. This becomes an isolating factor – becoming more inward-looking and self-reliant, reducing communication with others and blinding us to the emotional impact this has on everyone around us. We become myopic in our view of ‘our chaos’ that we must deal with. However, there is another way.

Rather than chaos being a destructive force, it can be harnessed and forged into a powerful energy of fortitude and purpose. We need to stop judging it as being a negative and unwelcome intruder in our lives. It is there to force us into a time of re-assessment, to shake us up and to re-evaluate our path. What are our priorities? What goals do we wish to achieve? How can we restore balance and order into our multiple roles and the narratives of our lives? We are on a journey – chaos and peace exist as necessary opposites when we pursue what is meaningful. We could not celebrate and appreciate times of calm if we had not experienced the struggle with chaos. By surrounding ourselves with people who want the best for us we can begin to unravel the tangled ropes of disruption and confusion by finding the golden threads of hope and progress. Deep breaths, small steps. Gentle unpicking. Gradual unwinding. The realisation and acceptance that as we do so, we are exactly where we are meant to be right now; treating this moment as if we had chosen it. We are always standing between what has been and what could be. Let us be thankful for the opportunity this moment brings and learn to communicate honestly and bravely.