Mess, what a great topic. I am not talking about mess in the physical mess, although I am quite partial to sticking my hands in mud, sand and cream, although probably not all at the same time. And I have given fleeting thought to jumping into a pool of jelly, fully clothed without any wrestling involved, but the thought of that much jelly wastage keeps me firmly grounded.
The concept of mess is more about the consequences of having taken a conscious step. You do something, another thing or several things you deem unpleasant follow. This follow on is the creation of mess and mess usually needs to be dealt with. Ignoring mess, just makes it worse as mess tends to breed.
Most mess is planned and predictable. When you decide to jump into that enticing puddle, you know that you will end up with wet shoes and wet trousers that will most likely need cleaning once you are done. As puddles do, it beckons and you are willing to expend the energy to clean up. Other mess is neither planned nor predictable. Having decided to jump into that puddle, you didn’t see the black dirt that lay under the water and the splash you created has actually reached your coat. The mess created is bigger than you initially anticipated and you will now need even more energy to deal with it. Whilst these examples happen to involve physical mess I could equally have used examples that do not.
We learn from an early age that mess is to be avoided. We spend a lot of time ensuring that our children make as little mess as possible and teach them (mostly through chiding) that mess is bad. Further and regrettably, we spend a lot of time cleaning up our children’s messes because heaven forbid they should actually have to experience mess. But if we do this, how are they ever going to learn how to assess predictable mess or how to deal with mess? Are we to deny our children the joy of playing in the mud because it creates physical mess that we will have to clean?
Mess avoidance tends to lead to:
- a flawlessly clean existence that is not a life
- a lack of resilience
- black and white two dimensional living
As such I’m here to advocate for mess.
For the longest time, I feared mess, spent a lot of time and energy avoiding it (well, except in the physical sense, but that’s another story you can ask the long suffering Italian Stallion). Living a life, growing and experiencing is messy. There is just no way around it. Now I put that same energy into dealing with mess, which in most cases turns out to be less messy than my inner voice had led me to believe. But the joy of having given myself permission to create mess and have the experience along the way far outweighs the energy expended to deal with the mess. And for the most part, I have stopped cleaning my sons’ messes. The time has come for them to learn their own cleaning techniques, with my support and guidance.
Embracing mess means embracing possibility, potential and growth. It means involvement, engagement and life. Permit yourself to experience mess. You may even learn some new clean-up techniques.
I thank my new found relationship with mess in bringing me to the blogging world. It has not been a flawless performance every time, but I know that I can deal with any mess. And in any event, the concept of immaculate is generally overrated.
When was the last time you got literally messy? Please feel free to leave your finger prints all over the dust in my comment box.