It’s summer. I’m on the move. Gardening. Dancing. Cleaning stalls. Mowing the lawn. Feeding chickens. A dozen projects always in the works.
By the end of the day, I’m exhausted … drenched in sweat and dirt with mud crusted to my bare feet. My greying blonde curls twist into humidity ringlets, often accessorized with strands of hay. I smell like horses and patchouli and fresh air and earth.
And I am unbelievably happy, because being a mess means that I’m fully engaged in Process. I’m shifting and making progress.
To me, a life well-lived requires that we get messy from time to time: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I’m going out on a limb here to assert that getting messy is necessary on some level in order to grow. But I also understand that the very thought of getting our metaphorical – if not literal – hands dirty creates huge resistance in people. After all, we’ve been taught to wash with antibacterial soap. We’re taught to abhor life’s messiness just as we are the unseen germs on our skin, despite that they are part of our natural existence. Even minor chaos is uncomfortable in a world that craves predictability, stability, and order, all wrapped up in tidy packages.
Being messy means that we’re forced to accept the discomfort of change. In my own experience on life’s spectrum of disarray, the less willing I’ve been to embrace change, the harder it’s been to navigate its ups and downs. The more I’ve resisted, the harsher it’s been, because along with the loss of my illusions of control there comes an inevitable shove into a state of surrender. I wasn’t raised to surrender. I doubt many people are.
I think that many of us were raised with the notion that surrender isn’t an option. If something isn’t working, we’re conditioned to try harder to make it work – to force a situation into reasonable parameters of winning. To surrender means to lose in the common core understanding of things. It means… gasp!... failure.
It’s interesting to me that some of the people we consider brilliant and successful have spoken with such high regard of failure.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Denis Waitley
And my favorite…
“The phoenix must burn to emerge.” Janet Fitch
Inspiring words from big thinkers.
To mere mortals, however, the cringe of failure resonates with loss and despair. It rises from fear … of making mistakes that can’t be undone, of making the wrong choices at the wrong times, of experiencing judgment by our loved ones and the inevitable shaming that comes with it.
We are shamed in our society by the threat of failure, and messiness is a sign that we could fail because it takes shape in the unpredictability of risk-taking. Getting messy means that we’re allowing ourselves to experience the vulnerability of not always knowing where we’re going, but moving forward nonetheless. It’s a realization that our restlessness and discontent are real and can no longer be confined to neat, tidy packages.
Getting messy isn’t a popular choice. It’s not the path of least resistance. Sometimes, though, the socially acceptable confines must completely abandoned, even leveled to the ground. Our internal landscapes must give way completely in order to achieve something greater.
It’s scary to think about, isn’t it? The process of change can feel like dancing with a hurricane or shaking apart at the epicenter of an earthquake. It tears us apart so that we can reconstruct ourselves from a new foundation.
How we approach change is up to us. We can choose to accept that life is messy with trepidation or joy. I choose joy. I choose risk-taking; some measured and some motivated by radical trust.
I’m going to get filthy in the process. But at the end of the day, I’ll strip naked and shower off and curl up in bed with a good book… and I’m satisfied.
Tomorrow I’ll rise and do it all again.