All my perfectionists out there, raise your meticulously cared for and sanitized hands.
“Mess” and I have never gotten along. I legitimately got in trouble in Pre-K because I didn’t want to finger paint. Way too messy. I mean, who really wants their hands covered in paint on purpose? I wouldn’t say I’m 100% a perfectionist/neat freak, though. I tend to be OK with a little more clutter than is probably acceptable. However, I’m a stickler for routines, being on time, and knowing where everything and everyone are.
With these personality quirks comes a heavy habit of worrying and stressing. If I’ve planned something for a while and it suddenly starts to unravel right before its arrival, my stress levels go through the roof. My mind tends to plunge into the murky waters of pessimism and Eeyore-esque outlooks, rather than take a moment to regroup and find the “failed” situation’s silver lining and possible remedies.
One of the amazing side effects of parenthood is very quickly becoming immune to occurrences I would have previously deemed disgusting. I will spare you the graphic details, but there are very few things that can still make me gag. I’m just too immune now. This acceptance of mess has crept into other areas of my life, as well…
If work gets messy, it’s OK.
Deadlines are not always met. Emails are not always immediately returned. Meetings are sometimes subjected to late arrivals or no-shows. As professionals, we cannot expect ourselves to operate at 100% all day, every day. Underneath our polished exteriors and no-nonsense work ethic, we are all still human beings. Imperfect, prone to mess up human beings.
And that’s OK.
Now, I’m not saying we should all start becoming lazy employees. “Fluid employees” would be a better term. Strive for perfection and success at your job, but also be ready and willing to readjust and reschedule when something goes awry. Mistakes and road bumps do not make you a horrible employee. If you react with negativity and frustration, or arrogance, or try to ignore the problem altogether, that makes you a less-than-desirable employee.
I work from home and have an infant. On more than one occasion, he has put a fork in my work plans for the day and forced me to reroute. The first couple of times this happened, I nearly made myself sick over how frustrated and embarrassed and angry I was that my professional reputation was being put on the line over having to change crib sheets and soothe a sobbing child rather than take a phone call that had been planned for a week. Then I remembered I was human, and my son was human. He was not intentionally trying to derail my career. He was just being a baby. With a penitent email and some brief rescheduling, I successfully had my call and life went on.
Become OK with messes at work.
If life gets messy, it’s OK.
Illnesses are inevitable. Friendships will come and go according to our season of life. Lack of sleep and adequate adult time after having a baby will make you and your significant other feel less than in love with each other. Time to throw in the towel and find a dark room to sit in? Absolutely not.
God uses sad, depressing, scary situations to sometimes shock us back to reality. I will readily admit that my spiritual life has not been great the past year or so. My husband and I are struggling to get connected in church. I’ve continually been convicted about my lack of a prayer life, or my tendency to only pray when it’s convenient or necessary.
Recently, a health issue I’ve been dealing with for years has worsened. After my diagnosis, I spent a few days randomly bursting into tears. I was so upset and fearful of the future. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder and a gentle reminder that I was not alone. I now pray just to talk and “check in” with my heavenly Father. He wants to know our thoughts, He wants to hear our burdens and fears, He wants to be our rock in the midst of life’s storms.
“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:5
In this sinful, imperfect world we live in, mess is going to happen. Will these messes be the end of the world as we know it? No, not usually. Are these messes punishments? Not likely. I’m learning to view a mess in my life as an opportunity to be positive, be resourceful, and learn more about the grace and power of my God. When I let my perfectionist facade fall away, the ability to find peace and rest in whatever situation I’m in is truly an act of God. He doesn’t want us to live in stress, worry, and frustration. He wants us to live in His light and discover and experience our lives the way He planned.
The next time a mess enters your life, hold back the urge to freak out and try to view that beautiful mess for what it is: an opportunity to grow.
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