The messiness of life

Life rarely travels in a straight line.

We make plans and more often than not, nothing happens exactly according to those plans. Things have a way of flying off the handle, and in their wake leaving broken dreams, broken relationships, illness, un-made decisions, regrets, wrong decisions, disappointment, misunderstandings, jealousies, envies, hurt, sadness, unforgettable memories, shame, unspoken words, words that cannot be taken back, getting old, loss, pain and death. 

Yep, life can get quite messy indeed. 

The thing is we all want our life to be straight-forward. None of us have a keen desire to face the mess that life can bring. And so we usually neglect to factor it in as we think of life in general. And this I suppose is a normal human trait. That’s why whenever something that resembles what I’ve listed above happens to any of us, our first response is often shock. For some reason we are deluded into thinking it can’t happen to us.

We would do ourselves an enormous favour by being prepared, at least in terms of never allowing the fact that life’s messiness will at some point be in our court escape very far from our minds.


Before my Dad died, of course I thought about death. But it was often in relation to other people. It was one of those things that happened to others. But when Dad died, it hit home. Suddenly, death was real and staring me right in the face. It was shocking. It was frightening. It was heart-wrenching. It was messy.

At this point I must admit that I do have a problem with this idea that life is messy. First of all, it’s a very negative view to have and secondly, it implies that there is something inherently calamitous about our being alive. 

The truth is, life is neutral – what we think, say, and do as human beings is what produces most of the mess we encounter. And the sad thing is that at some point in our lives, we’ll be affected by the mess that somebody else created, and at some point, the mess that we create will affect other innocent people. That’s how closely interconnected we are. I’ve had to learn this the hard way and even then I still forget and I have to remind myself.

Personally, when I think of life’s messiness, I’m thinking more of the everyday things like facing our weaknesses; being vulnerable and willing to say ‘I was wrong…I’m sorry’; loving fully with the emotion spilling out; conquering shame and fear; liking somebody who doesn’t like you; moving on from hurt or heartbreak. These are some of the things we have to confront on a daily basis. Small as some of them may be, they are the fabric of life. And if we do not learn to handle these everyday messes in a way that lets us capture and retain the beauty of character they can produce in us then we very much miss the whole point. 

I consider myself an optimist. I don’t believe life or people are out to get me (but if they are, too bad for them!). So for me, life’s mess becomes the beauty of life’s process. I don’t do or see this perfectly but I acknowledge it and that’s a good enough place to begin.

Things will undoubtedly happen in your life and in mine – small things, big things; things that will hurt and may appear messy. We all have to deal with these things. Sometimes we’ll get it right and other times, we’ll fall flat on our feet. The goal is to get it right consistently. 

Life tends to respond to us the way we respond to it, so if you approach the mess with an open heart and mind willing to work your way through it, life will be kind to you and support you. And you will learn and grow in the process. Of course this is easier said than done…but then isn’t that true for all things that are important? 🙂

So the next time somebody tells you about life’s mess, tell them about life’s beauty.

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