After posting my blog yesterday, a couple of my readers commented about my judging my messy process in a negative light. As I read their comments, I had a defensive reaction because I actually didn’t think of it that way at all. They do have a point. Messiness in general is considered dirty or not in good order. So, I dug a little deeper into my feelings over this word. And, to be frank, I’ve had reactions to this word most of my life. (So thanks to my readers for pushing me on this!)
This summer a friend of mine was talking about a friend’s two daughters. One was “very successful” and the other one was “a bit of a mess”. She was standing outside her tent, and I remember reacting really strongly about why someone being “a bit of a mess” was not successful. In fact, I might argue that the one that is a “bit of a mess” is authentic and real without judging themselves harshly or trying to shoehorn themselves into some definition of success that might not work for them. I didn’t say anything, but I’m pretty sure it bothered me for hours. I’m not sure who I was trying to convince, but I did not think being a “bit of a mess” was a bad thing.
I’ve never been tidy. I clean up my house and my car but it’s never on a regular timetable and often happens right before someone else is coming for a visit or going for a ride. There’s a part of me that knows I will be judged by others, but the motivation to keep a neat house does not emanate from inside me. It’s something on that list of things I should do. I hate that list.
I felt so relieved in my late 30s when I discovered that my personality type has a “messy” process in work. There was no judgment in the words. In fact, what I read made it seem perfectly normal to have a messy process. The profile also gave me tips to manage through the messiness and help others understand how I work. I became very open with my team that my process was messy and owning it. When I became a manager, I had to be very clear that I was still exploring options or I’d end up with a group of people working toward a goal that I hadn’t quite set yet.
Creativity is messy. Where I end up is never really where I thought I’d be, and it often takes several iterations before I am satisfied. The outcome is often better than my initial vision, so the journey is worth it. Life is very much like that. I know where I wanted to end up, but life had a way of changing the course. I still ended up happy with my situation, but it doesn’t look at all like I thought it would. For me, the meandering in the messiness is part of the gift. I like things that interest me, and a linear path is a bit boring and predictable
I have often felt judged about being messy. Women apologize all the time about their house being a mess. I look around and see a house that’s very organized and usually things are pretty much in their place. It makes me wonder where the bar is for being messy. I see their almost immaculate house that is a “mess” in their opinion, and I am embarrassed about every time they have ever seen mine. A friend of mine the other day apologized profusely because her car was a “mess”. It looked about like mine, and I assured her I was a “messy car” person. It is what it is. To me, it just says they have better things to do in their car besides clean it up. And I feel right at home. But it does send me a message that I have something to apologize about.
So, I don’t think I’m judging myself for the messiness in my process, as I know it works for me. Being messy is a rebellious act. Yes, I could probably put in the effort to look perfect and keep moving steadfastly toward my goals. But I don’t think I would end up where I need to be. I might end up where it looks like I should be, but how would I ever know if that’s where I really want to be. Most of the lessons I’ve learned in my life have been learned on detours and missteps. Besides, it’s much more fun to meander a little, reach some dead ends and discover a few surprises.