Monday, October 22, 2012

On Mess

I thought that by now I would have permanently escaped mess. Escaping mess, I would have also escaped cleaning up. By now,  I thought, I would be able to start existing in earnest; in a pristine and well-oiled environment I could start the perpetual-motion machine which would define my adulthood as one of accomplished glory and efficiency. Now that I didn't have to deal with the mess my mother dealt with, I could write, carry on a clear-cut yet passionate relationship with my husband, excel in school, save scads of money, and finally, steadily begin to acquire gorgeous new possessions instead of haphazardly replacing the victims of breakdowns, wear, accidents.

Escaping mess was probably my penultimate childhood goal. My bedroom was as minutely arranged as a nativity scene on a mantel. Everything that didn't fit the schema was chucked outside the door. If something broke, I hated myself and threw it out. If I ate something too messy, too large, larger, crumblier than a carrot or an apple, I hated myself and threw it up. I panicked over the relentless advance of kipple, and drew my circle ever smaller. The dream of a poised and perfect stasis dies hard. However. 

By now I see that since I left home, started eating, and grew up, I have been actively courting mess. The mess of living with a partner. The mess of transplanting in the kitchen. The aphids in the pepper plant. The mess of house-training a cat. The mess that is academia. The disappointing grades. The mess of moving. The mess of a mortgage. The mess of our very own water pipes, leaking through the ceiling. The mess of hauling gravel around the yard. The mess of tools and sawdust in the livingroom. The mess of writing-anyway (with my terrible penmanship, feeling ugly, in spite of noise, without a speck of inspiration). The mess of oiling a bicycle. The mess I never admit is mine. The mess of relationships: coworkers, family, tenants. The apologies. The mess of homemade food. The mess and mud of a garden. The failed radishes. The mess in the laundry room after replacing the windows. The mess of learning how to do something. The knitting ripped back 6 times. The mess of publishing poems that make me cringe a little. The mess I try not to clean up so I won't drive Tim crazy. The mess of grinding a knife. 

The knitting that got ripped back six times. But look at it now! It's a poppy pod.

Though I am living and managing, though I am making things, fixing things, though I am doing well, everything I want is a bit of a mess. So strange, and a little sad, to realize it.

This turned into something a little more vague and moralizing than I had intended. I would be very interested to hear about your views on specific or general life-messiness, should you care to comment or send off an email.


  1. Oh Lizzie,
    We are achingly similar on this subject - I abhor a filled room and yet here with a baby all the rooms have been overflowing by my standards, just as my studio fills with tools that require bolts and height... A person can indeed keep things simple, but I have learned that the mess is the byproduct of growth and great endeavors - to raise, to create, to put forth beauty...sometimes I look at it all and my chest gets tight. I do what I can to keep everything tidy and hygienic even if it is more Stuff than I want to see and I remember that on my deathbed I won't give thanks for the cleanliness and simplicity of my life - I will give thanks for the circles of love and the wonder of caring for people I may never meet. This post is poetic in its honesty and surely true for every perfectionist out there. You've tapped a universal spring for control! Learning to love the unruly and rumpled and dirty and over-full is a good goal. Sending you love, dear gifted one.

  2. Yes, I know: the STUFF. I don't have an Orion, but I am astonished at how much Tim and I apparently need to run one house and develop our individual interests. Since August I have been trying to expand my knitting skills, and for the first time, I've been buying yarn faster than I can turn it into a garment. I've been having thoughts on the pile of skeins in my closet, but perhaps enough for another post . . .

    "I remember that on my deathbed I won't give thanks for the cleanliness and simplicity of my life - I will give thanks for the circles of love and the wonder of caring for people I may never meet." Yes. Yes indeed.

  3. Amen to Sunny!

    And to you too Lizzie...

    Your words and images are soothing, in a queer way, to me... We've all got mess, its true... and some of it needs cleaning up and some of it can stay (and might actually become something beautiful).

    For the last two days I have spent all my free time, that is, the hours when Reu is sleeping, scrubbing mouldy mildew from all the windows of the house plus some nasty patches behind the radiators, bottom row of the bookshelf and other nooks. I still have more to go... that was mess I had to finally clean up. But then there's the mess in my french language skills and my relationships and my sketch book but they can stay for now.

  4. I had to reknit that darn pod a few times too. The mess of learning. (also, it turned out longer than the other, strange, no? Let me know how yours turn up, maybe I did miscount.)

    As to mess...I've had mess all my life. Bits of paper and yarn, paints and books strewn about. Dust bunnies the size of my hand since we adopted dear Wally. (it is amazing, how much fluff these two kitties can shed and NOT be bald). Considering spending money on a pretty (!) dry mop to battle the fuzz. Let's not talk about the kitchen sink, or the back room. Live messy, tidy when you can't stand it. Remember, the mess can wait until tomorrow.

  5. Em, I fought a round with the mould this summer, too. Very, very unpleasant. I must say though, that I adore what I've seen of your sketchbook, and I imagine you speak french beautifully, however you speak it.

    Cat, my pods are not yet done, and I haven't started the cocoons, but I will certainly let you know. (I never thought that living with a cat would seem "worth" the shed hair to me, but oddly enough, it does seem that way. Every time I look at Simpkin, I remember how glad I am that he is lolling around on my study couch, instead of huddling miserably outside, sick, thin and cold.)

  6. Hi - I just found your blog through Ravelry, and I have to say I was taken aback by this post as I feel like I'm going through the exact same thing at the moment. As a child (and teenager and early 20's-aged person) I was always very messy, very haphazard and unruly. Now I see a clean house as proof of my maturity. Dishes in the sink are like an attack on my identitiy as a fully-functioning adult. Which is strange because these feelings are irrational and very unadult-like. It's emotionally overwhelming for me to come home after work to see the house messy, and I can't stop myself from cleaning up after my boyfriend, though I know it makes him uneasy. Gah! It doesn't feel sad to me, as I get the sense that if I could just let my grip loose a tiny bit I'd be much happier.
    Also - kipple - great word!

  7. Katie - Thanks for introducing yourself. What do you go by on ravelry, if you don't mind me asking?

    'Kipple' is a coinage of Philip K. Dick. I'm a fan as well.

    1. my name's katherine0elaine, nice to meet you!

  8. Dude. If yur place is considered a mess, my place is a hellish mess only created from the deepest depths that humankind can ever possibly create. Thanks for making me feel like an asshole! I'm really joking.


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