Over the weekend my daughter took a big purple marker and left her signature on the book I’ve been reading. A book that I borrowed from a friend (sorry, Marlene!). I responded angrily and while I’m not proud of my response I’m really happy that I know why.
At some point in the last few years I learned to notice that my reactions to messiness are an indicator of my emotional “state of the union.” When I overreact to something so predictable as a child writing in a book it tells me that I’m projecting some internal discomfort, some feeling of being out of control. It helps me to stop and take stock of what’s going on inside that’s not sitting well, the unprocessed or unfinished emotional business that I am not too excited to look at.
So, what is going on? The truth is that I’ve made a handful of commitments in the coming months that will stretch me in new ways as a professional. It is my anxiety about those events and the fantasies I’ve concocted about them that are unsettling. My rational mind knows that my preparation and my abilities “in the moment” will make them successful and enjoyable experiences but my emotional side isn’t so easily satisfied. It wants to act out in pursuit of “perfect” (quite the opposite of messiness) and keep me focused on control.
When I overreact to mess; when I think perfect is possible; when I attempt to control the uncontrollable; that’s when I know I need to slow down and notice the anxieties and uncertainties that are keeping me stuck. As I get better and better at trusting these markers I am able to move more quickly back to creativity, back to presence in the moment, back to being in flow, back to the beautiful mess.