Day 10: Messes


Taking part in the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir Writing Challenge. This is Day Ten.

My grandma used to have a saying. “You’re a hot mess.”She would say it with a smile, to soften the edges, but the meaning was clear- my edges are not smoothed over, my hair is wild, my spaces can be messy, and I tended to be all over the place, even as a kid. For a long time, I imagined as I grew older, the edges would wear down a bit and I might even aspire to being meek and mild, and I even dared hope for genteel. So far, I’m out of luck.

But a funny thing has happened as I’ve gotten older. The things I would be teased over, the edges I worried about, the things I felt somehow weren’t as good about me because they weren’t neat and tidy (remember the 3rd grade obsession with white shoes?) are actually things I have grown to appreciate about myself. It’s okay that my friends had crisp, white shoes. Mine weren’t because I stopped thinking about keeping them clean as soon as something interesting and exciting happened. My pencils were never shiny and new, because I was busy drawing until they were nubs. My hair was a mess because I didn’t want to waste time fighting my rebellious natural curls, and it’s very convenient to tuck a pencil or paintbrush into a curled topknot. When I stopped caring about how I measured up to other people, I really started to like myself more.

This is translated into how I mother and wife, too. My kids are happy and they know without any doubt they are deeply loved- and they know they won’t get in trouble if their shoes get muddy on some adventure. They know I care more about the joy on Abby’s face as she takes her new pickax to rocks in the rain than I do about the deck she periodically hits as she misses the rocks. They know learning to cook a good dinner themselves is more important than a pristine kitchen, and they know having a giant dog who fiercely and loyally loves them is more important than perfect upholstery or shiny floors. My husband knows we can toss the clean laundry on the chair when a movie-thon beckons, and that sometimes, the dishes can wait, while he tosses me over his shoulder with a twinkle in his eye. People, experiences, and joy, are always more important than perfect order. These are my trade-offs. These are the messes I have learned to embrace in the service of a life well lived- at least by my own yardstick. If that makes me hot mess, so be it.