People and properties generally function on the basis of order and discipline. Sofas are in living rooms. Night tables are in bedrooms. Pots and pans are in kitchens.
Thoughts, too, line up with steadfast predictability. At the office, we think about writing reports, securing clients, and meeting deadlines. At home, we think about cooking dinner, mowing lawns, and paying bills.
Our lives are ruled by organization and consistency. File cabinets contain files. Wallets contain cash. Garages contain cars. Closets contain clothes.
Order. Order. Order.
However in every home – one hopes! – there also exists a single island of disorder. Ideally, it is located in the kitchen, to the left of the sink, just above the cabinet that contains the pie plates and cutting boards.
It is haphazard, unsystematic, and disarranged. It is, in fact, (drum roll) … the mishmash drawer.
Aah … the mishmash drawer! The mishmash drawer! Impossible even to think of without smiling.
Every mishmash drawer is different. Ideally, though, they contain variations upon the same unruly theme: Paperclips, batteries, scissors, razor blades, rolls of string, dismembered body parts of porcelain figurines (broken and saved for repair), Crazy Glue, rubber bands, a cap from an old-fashioned Coke bottle, an eyeglasses repair kit, ballpoint pens that might or might not have run out of ink, birthday candles, a package of flower seeds, a telephone bill, a corkscrew, and a small ceramic castle from a long defunct aquarium.
The mishmash drawer is the one area of our lives where, not only may we ignore methodology, we are duty bound to relinquish it. It is a world in which we do not have to fold laundry, polish furniture, return library books, renew driver’s licenses, diagram sentences, or make beds.
It is that very small universe from which we can grab and into which we can throw anything at all, with a good deal of helter, and even more skelter!
Don’t know where to put the card that accompanied a bouquet of flowers from an old friend, but hate to throw it away? The mishmash drawer! Aren’t sure what this thingamabob is that fell off of the whatchamacallit, but looks like it might be important? The mishmash drawer! Pretty hair barrette – not yours but maybe its owner will turn up someday. Into the mishmash drawer! Old wheat penny that could be worth a second look for a coin collector? The mishmash drawer!
Neuroscience has recently discovered (and if it hasn’t, it should have) a previously unexplored cubicle of our craniums that serves the same purpose in our bodies that the mishmash drawer serves in our lives. Into that cerebral compartment, we put facts and factoids, gossip and rumors. It is a cornucopia of half-baked thoughts, plans, schemes, and ruminations. In it, we find the outline for the novel we never wrote about a one-handed musician; architectural drawings for the cabin we want to build beside a mythical lake; an itinerary for the trip that we never will take to visit the pyramids; and the delicious scent of lilacs outside the window in the house where we grew up.
This particular component of gray matter is located behind the frontal lobe, to the right of the parietal lobe, and above the temporal lobe. It is a pressure relief valve for the life’s often overwhelming demands, and it keeps us delightfully off balance and cheerfully sane.
What, exactly, is this newly detected section of our brain?
What is its scientific name and its biological attribution?
Another drum roll.
The mishmash lobe … of course!
Shelly Reuben has been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. She is an author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit www.shellyreuben.com.
Copyright © 2014, Shelly Reuben