I’m a lousy athlete, lackluster violinist, average writer and an adequate singer, but I’m a pro at making a mess.
Yesterday, after falling off my chair and causing my coach to erupt in a fit of giggles, I forgot to switch off the pump before removing a spray nozzle, which caused coating suspension to spurt everywhere. I sprayed water on my coworker, spilled water on the floor, and (to add insult to injury) botched the paperwork.
My aptitude for disorder is fairly uniform. If I paint, they’ll be as much paint on myself as on the object being painted. If I garden, I’ll be dirt up to my ears. If I cook, there’ll be vegetable parings, bowls, and knives scattered all over the kitchen. Culinary masterpieces require these things—I could’ve just made hotdogs.
Probably woulda made a mess doing that too.
I could shuffle this predisposition off on sheer clumsiness. Or maybe I just don’t give a damn. But, I’d rather look a little deeper—maybe find some admirable reasons for making a mess. So here it goes.
I do things with gusto!
I’m not afraid have fun and get dirty. Case in point, my students and I took advantage of the warm weather to get out and do our favorite thing: play tag. The lawn was slippery. I was barefoot in an attempt to keep my shoes clean (oh irony). As I raced across the grass, a seven-year-old hot on my heels, I skidded, fell, and ended up with mud up and down both legs. By the time class was done it was a toss-up who was muddier—teacher, or students.
It’s tough to keep clean while giving it your all at a game of toilet tag.
I try new things.
Three of the aforementioned messes were made because I’m new at work and I didn’t know what I was doing. But I was doing it. I made a mess changing the spray nozzle the first time, but my coach gave me a couple pointers, and I did it perfectly the next time.
How do you learn new things without making a mess?
But it’s not all good.
If I think of all the messes I’ve made over the years, some of them were relational. Those aren’t as easy to clean up as potato peels and spoons in the kitchen. I wish I hadn’t made them.
I also consider the messes I’ve made because I refused to take counsel, or shot when I should have asked questions, or just didn’t have a coach and acted in ignorance. Those have been costly.
So, what to do?
Like the old adage of lost love being better than never loving at all, better to make a mess in a daring attempt than to attempt nothing. But messes are opportunities to learn, to reflect, and to be mentored. And then, if you can, you clean up.