My Beautiful, Messy Life

Posted on August 6, 2012

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This morning, as I was driving to work, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the mess of life.

My life doesn’t have many lines of symmetry. My life is more like some elaborate mobile with long and short branches somehow balancing together and moving in an unseen breeze. I don’t understand how all the parts fit together: one part day-planner, one part magic, two parts the fact that time keeps marching on.

But life really is art.

Like some elaborate performance piece where I know I’m on street corner-stage, but don’t know how the scene ends or how I’m supposed to wrap things up. I can’t tell if I’m in a comedy or a tragedy or an absurd nihilist drama. So I make up a few lines, hope for a few laughs and glance around at the other people on stage with me, hoping that no one noticed that I have absolutely no idea what’s happening. I’m probably not even supposed to be up on stage.

But the truth is, while I’m worrying about faking it until I make it, everyone else is glancing at me, wondering if I know that they’re doing the same thing. They feel they belong in in the audience, not standing in the spotlight, talking about pre-school, organic food, social justice, car payments, and aging parents.

But this morning, as I drove to work, my car having picked up a new knocking sound, I thought about all these things and was touched by the mysterious and beautiful silliness of life.

There is a part of the wonderful children’s book People, by Peter Spier, which captures much of the pomp and dressing which we, as humans, place upon ourselves. And I think it isn’t just the rank, or titles, or vestments which are just adult dress-up clothes, but it is also the homes, cars, and image we portray that serve only to hide that fact that we are fragile people who need each other, even if it is only to assure one another that we are all in this together.

Caryn and I were speaking about how differently people arrange and balance work, family, cleaning, friendships, finances, hobbies, and the hundreds of other things that different people make priorities. Many of which I do not understand: NASCAR, Dancing with the Stars, The Golden Corral, math.

But I’m sure I have things in my life which other people cannot understand: running while not eating meat, reading, Jesus, Kung-fu movies, baking bread, or my new favorite show.
And yet even as I acknowledge the diversity of ways of filling our days, in the back of my mind there is still some idealized version of life to which I am failing to align.

In this version my house is clean, my body is fit, and my kids go to sleep on time. My food is healthy, home-cooked, both locally sourced and organically grown. My friends are close, my paycheck is big, and my writing is sought after. In this world, my kids are advanced, my family is gracious, and my church is vibrant. I always get money back at tax time. I always get a clean bill of health from my doctor. And I always remember to pack a lunch the night before I go to work so I never forget the next morning.

I cannot shake the desire to shift, change, inch toward that ideal. I think to myself, “If only we could make a cleaning schedule…If only we could be diligent with a budget…If only I could make a little more money…publish a book…run faster…get a Vitamix blender…then life would be easy and I would be happy.”

But the messiness of life reminds me to enjoy the ride, that life doesn’t clean up without becoming boring.

More money can fudge the margins a little bit. Changing churches or houses can smooth out a few wrinkles, but as far as I can tell a life well-lived takes a lot of work. And sometimes the lawn doesn’t get mowed. And sometimes the car is 1,000 miles over on an oil change. And sometimes you feel bad because you hired a babysitter…again. And sometimes you neglect really important things like your family, yourself, or your God.

But sometimes moments come along and I am filled with a sense of the deep goodness of life. And I try to gaze at them the way I would at a butterfly: willing it to stay, knowing it will move on. And when it does I continue on my way, pull into my spot at work, turn on my computer, and start checking things off my to-do list. And this too, is good.

 

Photo: serenejournal

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