I am learning to let go of the narrative that if I do the right things and make the right choices that life won’t get messy.
It doesn’t serve me any more. I am learning to live into the reality that life is an iterative process of trying and sometimes screwing up and trying again. I am learning to practice that same attitude toward others too. We are all doing our best, sometimes screwing up and trying again.
When I had a life that was going so well and I had a job that I loved and my marriage was thriving, I was living hard into the narrative that I had all of those things – the good life- because I had done all the right things. I believed that I didn’t have mess because when things got messy I had managed my way through them. When other people had mess, I believed they weren’t managing their mess well enough. And sometimes I was even ass-holey enough to assert that to them. Yep. I was one of those people.
Then I had that moment (or several of them) where I had done all the right things and life was messy in so many ways and I was hurting and all of the rules I was playing by didn’t work for me anymore.
Turns out life is messy. Relationships are the messiest!
When I can see that things are about to get messy or sometimes even when I just obsessively worry that some situation might get messy for me in my relationships, Manager Maggie comes swooping in for a big rescue.
Manager Maggie forgets good boundaries she set for herself, like its not my job to fix other people. Manager Maggie does not do a great job with empathy because you can’t manage situations or pain when you’re in mess with other people.
Manager Maggie has a really specific voice and tendencies. Thankfully, I am getting better at noticing when she has arrived. I thank her for her willingness to help me avoid pain, but remind her that pain and mess are a part of the deal. I remind her that we can’t grow if we manage the situation. I go through withdrawal when I have to leave her behind. I feel agitated and emotionally vulnerable. I feel like I want to crawl out of myself for a moment..just a tiny moment to get a little break.
And then, I invite Messy Maggie to the conversation. Messy Maggie is generally really worried. But she is really brave. She knows the ten million ways she could be hurt because she has been ruminating on them since the situation presented itself, but she also holds space for the reality that she is fully loved and that will hold her in her darkest pain. She knows how to show up for really hard things.
But this post isn’t about Messy Maggie and her brilliance. This post is about Manager Maggie and the regularity with which she asserts her narrative. Someday, I hope that Manager Maggie lives into the wisdom that Messy Maggie holds and they can blend the whole thing. Maybe in some ways they already have. For now though, relapse is real and regular. Relapse is messy and withdrawal is painful. But we keep showing up and finding our way back.
Here’s to you and your messy relapse and beautiful journey forward. As a dear friend once told me in the midst of a vulnerable choice I as making, “life is only forward movement.”