How M&Ms Helped Create Order Out of Chaos

And how I learned to let go and live a happier life

Andy Spears

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Photo by Analia Baggiano on Unsplash

Order. Predictability. Pattern, routine, habit. All of those can be comforting, calm, even restorative.

But if we’re trying to control — if we are seeking to create our own order from a world that seems chaotic — we can be in for some unpleasant experiences.

In short: We can only really control ourselves — but living in society means interacting with others and addressing circumstances as they come our way.

I was reminded of my own struggles with the search for order when reading a fabulous article by Dana Leigh Lyons.

The Origins of OCD: Calming the Chaos, Discovering My Drug of Choice | by Dana Leigh Lyons | Oct, 2022 | Medium

Here’s the short version:

Whenever I was asked about a “fun fact” or interesting story about myself (usually at some work-related team building function), I’d always talk about my penchant for sorting M&Ms by color and then eating them from most to least.

People usually laughed at this tale — and sometimes bought me M&Ms (I LOVE chocolate, so yay).

Here’s the background:

From a young age, my life was quite chaotic. I could go into great detail, but I’ll summarize: primary caregivers prone to physical abuse, verbal abuse (of each other and their children), substance abuse, and financial irregularities.

The bottom line: I wasn’t sure what my days would look like when I woke up each morning. Sure, there was always food, and I went to school (a refuge), but otherwise, I was uncertain from day to day what would happen — what surprise (not good surprises) would occur that day.

I craved order. Stability. Predictability.

School provided that for the hours I was there.

I also developed coping mechanisms/habits.

My favorite was related to M&Ms. Sure, chocolate itself was soothing. But I turned my acquisition of M&Ms into a game.

More than a game, a chance to control — to create order.

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Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .