"The Magic is in the Mess" is a quote I just came across on Brené Brown's website. For those of you familiar with me and my work, you know that I am a HUGE Brené Brown fan. I discovered her work in 2010 with her first TEDTalk. This talk has been viewed over 23 million times, so I am certainly not the only one who felt moved by her powerful message. Suffice it to say Brown's research on vulnerability and worthiness led me down a personal and professional path to understanding vulnerability, recognizing shame, and trusting in a belief that to be alive and human makes us worthy of love and belonging.
But back to the quote...
I stopped in my tracks when I saw "The Magic is in the Mess." As I type this, I am surrounded by a literal mess of dogs, dirty laundry, and work notebooks I'm sorting through to prepare a presentation in a couple of weeks. But this quote didn't hit home because of a discomfort with physical mess - I have an alarmingly high tolerance for physical mess. Rather, it hit home because loving my "emotional messiness" is one of my greatest challenges. In fact, just last week I was meditating on my discomfort and subsequent impulse to run for the hills when life gets "messy."
I've always been an empath who feels emotions intensely. This quality is one I lean on to be a good friend, a loving wife, and a nurturing therapist. It is also a quality that can overwhelm me when I face personal struggle. When faced with scarcity of any kind (not enough love, money, clothes, success...), I resist the heck out of my "messy" emotional side and fight against the discomfort I feel when emotions run really high. I go quickly into "fix it" mode, I shut down and withdraw, or (I'm embarrassed to say) I blame others for my discomfort. What I forget in these moments is just how important the mess is for deepening empathy, self-compassion, and creativity. When I try to short circuit my mess by pleasing others, shifting blame, or jumping to a solution before really embracing the emotional experience, I also short circuit the insight, the clarity, and the strength that come from embracing the messy emotions.
When I think back to some of the more challenging chapters of my life, I can see they are full of intense emotion and struggle. These chapters are also full of wisdom, patience, compassion, innovation, courage, and resilience. In moments of suffering I've learned to ask for help; I've learned it was not expected that I know how to withstand my suffering; I've learned that those who love me will not leave me when I am a puddle on the floor; I've learned that I can be a puddle on the floor and that does not make me weak or unworthy; I've learned that giving myself permission to be a puddle was exactly what I needed to truly see my way through the mess. It is so easy to forget, in moments of distress, that there really is magic in the mess.
In Thich Nhat Hanh's book No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, he builds beautifully on the metaphor that to enjoy the beauty of the lotus flower means we must also endure the smelly, murky mud which provides the lotus the sustenance to thrive. In essence, we must learn to love the mess if we want to know the magic.
So here is my wish for you, as much as for me: Love the mess. Practice full acceptance of your beautiful mess. Remember it serves a critical purpose for self-discovery and growth. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable, because it is in discomfort that we find our courage. Lastly, trust the divine magic will find you, especially in the mess!
Warmth and love,