I’ve been thinking a lot lately – about stories and narratives, and just how powerful they are. I’m a big believer in sharing your story (which is a lot of why I started this blog). I also believe that the stories and narratives we tell both about and to ourselves carry great power. Just think about the weight that things you hear yourself saying – both in your head and out loud – carry and the affect they have on your psyche and how you see yourself.
A story I tell both to and about myself a lot? I’m a mess. I’m a disaster. Whether I’m describing my physical appearance, the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of my house, my desk at work, how I’m doing my job, the seeming busyness/disorganized state of my life; my messy and disaster-like persona seem to be the dominant narrative these days.
Before I go into the whole”be careful the stories you tell yourself”/self-fulfilling prophecy spiel, I’m just going to stop right here. I do need to be careful the stories I tell myself. But what if being a mess isn’t such a bad thing?
I was thinking about being a mess. And then I was thinking about my kitchen, and how it is often a mess. And then I thought back to a conversation I had with a friend of mine a while back. I am someone who likes to cook and bake. A LOT. So it follows that keeping a clean and tidy kitchen would be a bit of a struggle.
That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact. The more food you make, the more culinary projects you tackle; the more work it’s gonna take to keep order in your kitchen.
Can you see where I’m going here? Let’s look at “the kitchen of life” (such a cheesy metaphor, but work with me here). Why am I “such a mess”? Because I’m busy doing. I’m busy taking care of others. I’m busy organizing, living, and yes (obviously) cooking. How could I expect to organize myself into a need and tidy little life, any more than I could expect to have a neat and tidy kitchen after a weekend baking marathon?
Right now, on top of my usual life responsibilities (gym, work, feeding myself and being a functional adult), I’m also in the midst of single-handedly organizing a pretty big fundraiser for Alzheimer’s research in honour of my late grandma. I just finished coordinating the bake sale portion of that (obvi I did all the baking). The last 3 weekends have been consumed with building gardens from the ground up in my backyard (that is NOT an exaggeration – I literally started with asphalt and nothing else) and then starting to plant them. Oh yeah, I also played music at church, and am hosting a good-bye party next weekend for a friend as well as a few other small get-togethers.
I am NOT saying this to brag. Or to justify my busy-ness (in fact I read all that and was like – duh – no wonder you’re so exhausted these days. Whose bright idea was it to take on all of that?). I am so not into the glorification of busy, so please don’t misunderstand my motivation in sharing all of the above life happenings.
My point is that, much like making a lot of cookies makes a big mess in the kitchen; doing a lot of “stuff” can mean a messy life. And that might not be a bad thing. Sometimes when I am baking or cooking a lot, I decide that my kitchen will not be super duper clean. I’ve come to accept “clean enough” at times and let the rest go. So why can’t I extend the same grace when it comes to my life?
Life, for better or for worse, is messy. Living, loving, taking risks, getting out of our comfort zones all create disorder. Sure, there are ways to minimize the mess. Care less. Stay home. Don’t take risks. Maybe you’ll have less to “clean up,” but your life will probably also be more boring. Are our friends going to remember and speak fondly of us because we “had it all together?” Or because we were there when they needed it? Because our life was perfectly organized? Or because we sat and talked way longer than we should have, forgetting all the other things we “should” be doing?
Furthermore on messiness, I’ve realized that messy people are my favourite. My best friends? The ones who don’t clean up for me. Who don’t need to freshen up or put on make-up. I have said many times that if I show up and your house is a mess, I take it as a compliment because it means we are at that level where you don’t feel you need to clean up for me.
And I like it when those messy friends are willing to share their own messy lives with me. When they tell me about their struggles, challenges and failures. After all, who wants to sit and have coffee with a perfect person? When we both sit and share our messiness, isn’t that how we learn and grow?
So maybe being messy is ok. But I still hold to what I said at the beginning. We need to be careful of the stories we tell ourselves. So how can I switch my narrative? Something I’m working a lot on these days when it comes to how I interact with myself is less “doing” and more “observing.”
Example: I catch myself thinking “you’re such a mess.” See that I’m doing it (here I go again). Try and think about why. Don’t necessarily avoid that feeling or try to change it. Just sit in it and think about it.
As always, I also try to cut myself some slack. “Yes, maybe I am such a mess – but it’s been a crazy week this week. Look at all you had going on/all you got accomplished! Maybe a little mess isn’t such a bad thing?” See how this works? Yes, I am a mess – but a beautiful one. And you know what? I’m proud of all the things I’ve done to leave me so “messy.” And I have to wonder – if messy people are my favourite, then maybe, just maybe, my messiness is attractive to others too?
Anyone ever watch the Magic School Bus? I’m gonna challenge us all to channel our inner Ms. Frizzle. Let’s go forward and take chances, make mistakes and get messy! And while we’re at it, let’s stop apologizing for our messiness. Let’s live a life that doesn’t stay inside the lines – and own it. We might be messy but we sure will be memorable.