What a Mess

swtiching teams blog what a messAccording to Webster’s mess is defined as a dirty or untidy state of things or of a place or a situation or state of affairs that is confused or full of difficulties. Any who had the misfortune of finding themselves in the path of Hurricane Matthew have a new appreciation and understanding for the word. In Waters world, Matthew was a perfect storm on many fronts.

In our state, and community, the devastation and damage is still being tallied. Personally, all plans to celebrate our anniversary were cancelled, including Pride weekend in Orlando. Total bummer. Professionally, two closings on my listings were postponed and my internet was down for 3 days making it impossible to work on anything. Major inconvenience.

Yet, through it all, my thoughts were focused on how lucky we were to have electricity during the storm and that our home escaped any major damage. My thoughts were with those who did not fare as well as we did and especially with those in Haiti who experienced catastrophic damage from the storm.

Oddly enough, instead of feeling annoyed, frustrated, or anxious, I felt grateful. The absence of my usual reaction was noticeable and a sign of my own growth.

It is not that I am unable to handle a mess, I just prefer things to be orderly and neat. Who doesn’t? The past five years has been a continual lesson in how to become more accepting of messiness and has showed me the importance of making peace with it.

Cleaning up is my least favorite thing to do. I despise mess to the extent that commercials and television programs showing spills, clutter, or anything in between cause me to change the channel. Yes, my family thinks I am crazy and laughs me. I do not care. I am not a fan of life imitating art, especially when grape jelly is in proximity to white carpet, furniture, or bedding.

Discovering I was a lesbian, getting a divorce, and starting over was my real life grape jelly moment. Mess, mess, everywhere. Coming out created a mess of epic proportions but it also provided numerous opportunities to learn resilience, patience, and gratitude. While I was scrubbing the stains, I was not able to fully appreciate those lessons. Now I see the gift this particular mess gave me.

My aversion to mess goes way back. More on that later. Knowing how to cope with mess of any kind was never my strong suit. Cultivating thinking that can handle mess requires a change in perspective. It took me many years to fully appreciate this fact. Ugh.

The choices we make when confronted with things we cannot control are central to our reactions and behaviors. Some walk away and hope someone else will come in with the broom. Others become consumed by the mess. The source, cause, or reason why it exists is not important. What matters is how we respond to it.

How do you deal with mess? Do you stand in the middle of the room and complain about it or do you get to work? Does the sight paralyze you or does it motivate you to move forward? The beautiful thing about messes is they can be cleaned up.

The best way to clean up is by pushing through it. Doing this makes all the difference. Wisdom comes when we learn to embrace the clutter around us and inside of us. Tidying up our minds and hearts is difficult when everything is swirling like a tin roof being tossed around in a storm, but it is possible.

No matter how hard we try, messiness is a part of life none of us can escape. Bummer, I know. But there is a silver lining. I promise.

Our lives are primed for mess at any time. It is random and unavoidable as well as unpredictable and sometimes self-created.  Relationships, life, and everything under the sun is fair game. Becoming equipped to deal with mess is a process which can feel overwhelming and frustrating. This is where the real work begins.

Yes, there is work involved. Sorry. The roots of my neurotic beliefs came from a need to feel secure and safe. Seeing chaos, aka mess, on the outside was nothing more than a reminder of how I was feeling deep inside of myself. Keeping things neat was how I mitigated my internal chaos. When I began to deal with my internal chaos, my tolerance and reaction to mess dropped drastically.

Taking a long hard look inside is not always fun or easy, but it is the only way to get to it. How we react to our lives and the things that happen in it is often programmed very early on. Habits and patterns of behavior can trip us up.

Asking ourselves questions and listening to the answer, no matter how unpleasant, helps sort the wheat from the chaff and shed light on what is going on with us mentally and emotionally. The goal is not to simply eradicate mess in our lives, but to gain the ability to take it as it comes and maintain a healthy way of handling it. Dig deep and become committed to the work necessary to be your most authentic self.

Keeping a full inventory of cleaning supplies, brooms, mops, and dustpans in the closet is the goal. Yes, that was a closet reference. The silver lining here is the peace, confidence, and feeling of accomplishment that emerges despite the mess.

We are all works in progress as we muddle through the hot messiness around us. Messiness loves company. This week, strive to minimize the impact your own personal chaos has on the world by choosing kindness and gratitude in the moments when feelings are spilling out of your glass.

Breathe deeply. Practice choosing peace for yourself, even if only for a minute, in spite of the mess. If all else fails, try to look for the good in people and the world and also remember no matter the situation, things could always be worse. It does help.


What You Can Do When Your Life has Become a Mess.

Life isn’t like a book. Life isn’t logical or sensible or orderly. Life is a mess most of the time. -Charles Caleb Colton