This post is a Tuesday Tip.
Related Post: The Mess Will Set You Free!
Last Thursday evening I was driving my son home from guitar practice and got an emergency call from my wife. While picking up a late dinner, she’d been in a car accident with my two youngest children. Everyone was okay, but the kids were hungry and she asked me to pick them up and take them home for dinner.
When I arrived at the scene, I saw the back end of our van smashed in. I pulled in, and I began to roll up the windows to my car, so I could get out and lock it.
I didn’t know my son was craning his neck out the back window.
Until I heard strangled, plaintive grunts from the back seat.
I quickly lowered the window and he let out an anguished cry. Part pain, part anger at my seeming abuse and betrayal. Outside my car, the little ones were indeed crying and crabby, standing hungry behind the wrecked van.
An absolute mess.
A part of me—the part of me that says life is supposed to be orderly and composed and if it isn’t then somebody is at fault—wanted to be angry, to blame and shame someone for something. But then I heard inside the echoes of a lecture by Ann Lamott: “The grace of age is radical self-acceptance.” Reminding me life is messy, and we human creatures are messy, and life isn’t about eliminating the mess, it’s about embracing the mess.
And I felt a sense of peace steal over me. And with it came beauty.
I noticed the glistening tears of my beautiful daughter, and I was grateful. My son’s anger, though misplaced, was a blessed reminder that he usually trusts me so when I screw up it really hurts him. The caved-in van was a graceful symbol of the temporary nature of all material things. And there was my wife, comforting the elderly immigrant who had caused the accident. And I was grateful for the opportunity to witness real love.
An absolutely beautiful mess.
I think perhaps we begin to accept our messy selves—begin to embrace the beauty of our flawed and broken being—by first accepting the chaos of everyday living.
Would you try with me? Would you try to accept the messiness of life? Perhaps even embrace it and revel in the beauty? If we are going to do so, I think we have to do more than tolerate mess when it happens. I think we need to create mess.
Here are ten ideas:
- Start a food fight at the dinner table.
- Get into the longest line at the supermarket. Intentionally.
- Declare a week of no picking-up. The kids will love you, you’ll have more free time, and you might just relax into the mess.
- Declare a month of no yard work. When the leaves fall, throw the kids a rake, let them pile in and worry about it later.
- Don’t go to the grocery store this week. Cook with whatever you have in the house. Find ways to make it fun. Chocolate syrup on stale cereal? Absolutely!
- Make one Facebook status per day about something messy in your life. Don’t ask for comfort. Ask for celebration
- Pick a wall in the house for drawing on. The kids will, once again, love you.
- Instead of a tablecloth, use newspaper. And no plates.
- Let the kids dress themselves for a week, no matter how ridiculous it looks. Intentionally wear mismatched socks to work.
- Make no plans for an entire weekend. Live moment to moment. Go to a park if that’s the mood. Or go to a homeless shelter if that’s the mood. Let it be messy and unplanned.
Does this sound crazy? I think it might be a little crazy. But accepting our orderly, comfortable, shame-filled existence is even crazier, isn’t it?
Comments? Why stop at ten? Could we get to 100? Share your ways of making life messy and beautiful in the comments.
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TUESDAY TIP DISCLAIMER: The Tuesday Tip is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association website.