Our oldest has reached the age of paying attention to song lyrics. It is disappointing that I can no longer listen to “Slim Shady” with her, and if a song ever contains the word “stupid”, I’m sure to hear about it from the lyrics police.
“Mom,” she says seriously, “we aren’t supposed to say the word stupid.” I sigh, switching stations, “You’re absolutely right. That was not good at all. I can’t believe they said that!”
On a recent road trip, at approximately hour four of eight, the song, “Beautiful Mess”, by Diamond Rio came on. It’s one of my favorite country songs, mostly because it is catchy. The girls were quiet in the back of the car; I assumed they were either asleep or on the edge of it.
But what is so beautiful about a mess?
As the song drew to an end, our oldest piped up from the back of the car, “Mom, what’s so beautiful about a mess?”
The question caught me off guard. I fumbled through my answer, the same way I fumbled the first time she asked me how babies get out of tummies.
“Well, you know how some things are beautiful but can be messy at the same time?” She nodded, unconvinced, still confused. “It’s like that”, I said, popping my hundredth handful of Peanut Butter M&M’s. The most non-answer of non-answers, a great skill I’ve honed as a parent.
Whether she realized it or not, she asked a profound question. One that I wish I could have answered more eloquently. But, such is life, and heck, she probably wouldn’t have appreciated an in-depth answer.
Don’t avoid the mess for the sake of beauty
If I could rewind back to her question, here is what I’d say:
The mess is the crayons strewn across the floor, the beauty is the adorable family portrait you made, meticulously labeling each family member in your endearing, shaky, 5-year-old handwriting.
The mess is the toys and goldfish crumbs inhabiting every room of our house, including bathrooms. It’s the yelling and tantrums, it’s “The Chipmunks” playing on repeat, it’s the sticky handprints covering our windows. The beauty? That our house holds you, my sweet girls.
The mess is the flour covering every surface of our kitchen, the sink full of dishes, my achy feet. The beauty is the fresh-baked caramel rolls.
It’s the baby you get to hold in your arms after a hell of a labor.
It’s the tears you cry after you lose someone you love. The inseparable marriage of love and pain.
You see doll, beauty and mess travel together. If you avoid the mess, you’re also going to lose some of the beauty.
Messes and Beauty can co-exist
Although the word “mess” has negative connotations and “beauty” has positive ones, don’t let that trick you.
It’s not black and white. The world isn’t all mess or all beauty. They exist as a pair. Sometimes it seems like one significantly overpowers the other: the beauty of a waterfall; the mess of a destructive storm. But if you look closer, you might see how they balance each other out.
Sure, the waterfall is stunning. But for it to form, it had to erode the rocks to create the perfect ledge for water to cascade over. This took time, lots of time. And for the rocks, maybe pain. Trees had to fall to clear way for this majestic force. Nature had to submit to the powerful flow of the water. It’s beautiful, yes, absolutely, but there was definitely some mess involved with the creation of the final product.
Storms can cause a lot of damage. They can rip apart seemingly intact structures within seconds. They can be terrifying, earth-changing, massive forces of nature. And yet. And yet. And yet.
As the sky begins to lighten, there is an almost eerily peaceful calm. It’s as if the earth takes a collective breath, pausing before resuming life. Storms clear space for new growth and provide necessary nutrients for life. With the destruction comes new life, beauty.
Don’t be scared of the mess
Sweet girl, I’m telling you this because I want to be absolutely sure that you know not to be frightened by messes.
At multiple points in your life, you will have to make scary decisions that involve both mess and beauty. Don’t let the beauty blindside you; but of equal and almost greater importance, don’t let the mess scare you.
Make the mess. Slog through. Find your beauty.