From the minute we’re born, we seem to be placing ourselves in, and extracting and ourselves from, one mess after another. It just seems unavoidable. Despite best intentions to keep things tidy and unsullied, maintaining an existence which is uncomplicated and neat feels impossible. At least to me.
Sometimes, especially when my three sons were younger, the mess is a physical one. Toys strewn from room to room, crumbs and mysterious sticky remnants of unauthorized bedroom snack consumption, and Lego blocks turning up unexpectedly underfoot like Christmas pine tree needles in July. Those days have mostly passed for me. My home is definitely neater, aside from multiple pairs of sneakers in alarmingly large sizes randomly abandoned in the precise spot where they were casually kicked off.
Literal messes happen to all of us – that box of blueberries that popped open and released uncountable orbs of blue all over the kitchen floor, tumbleweeds of dog hair, the leaky trash bag drizzling garbage juice all the way down the stairs as a final gross goodbye. For these situations we arm ourselves with sponges and brooms and cleaners. Getting things back in order is a chore to be managed, an accomplishment to forget about once it’s completed. No big deal.
Returning a physical mess to its previous state (or even one that’s improved) can be annoying, but generally it’s pretty easy. You wipe, sweep, mop and you’re done.
Life’s less tangible messes are a whole different story, though. Relationships and emotions are not nearly as easy to manage and they’re nowhere as simple to contain as even the most rogue of escaped blueberries. There’s nothing neat or tidy about our feelings and, since typically our emotional state is not independent of those we care about, limiting their impact on others is a much more difficult task.
Working through an emotional mess is a challenge, even if we attempt to deal with it in the same direct and efficient manner we use to address a spill. Unfortunately, there’s no product available to scrub our hearts or heads clean, no Shamwow to absorb all the emotions and thoughts swirling inside ourselves. Like the days of small boys behaving like mini cyclones in my previously neat home, it will pass. Until then, all one can do is their best to avoid stepping on anything that hurts.