The Mess of Humanity


My friend Carmi hosts a photography meme on his blog, and recently (though I think it changed last night, or will change later today) his theme had to do with messiness.

What better mess is there than the one made of cookie crumbs, drips of coffee spilled over the edge of mugs, and crumpled napkins? This mess isn’t the result of a tantrum or a break-in, but is, instead, the natural by-product of good conversation.

It’s evidence of my trip to Mexico to spend time with my mother, who is one of the most generous people ever to populate Planet Earth.

Our adventures, this trip, weren’t terribly grand. We soaked in the sun and sipped lots of espresso, bobbed in her pool, floated in the ocean, and ate several excellent meals in restaurants and at her table.

If I didn’t get a lot of writing done, I came home feeling like my soul was well-rested, and my mind is brim-full of stories I’m getting ready to share.

There’s another kind of messiness, though, the kind that wells up from the place of our deepest emotions. While I was relaxing south of the border, my husband was here, and a skirmish among our dogs ended with the messy reality of putting Miss Cleo to sleep.

This was a decision that would have been made within the year, anyway, but a part of me feels like I failed her for not being here, and failed my husband for making him do it without me.

Human death, too, tainted my trip: My great-aunt Peg died last week. She was nearly 97, and died in familiar surroundings, wrapped in the arms of people who loved her, and comforted by her strong faith in God.

Oddly, that knowledge means that while I feel her loss, I’m less emotional about it than I am about my dog.

But all those tangled emotions, joy and sadness, grief and solace, pleasure and pain, are part of the Mess of simply Being Human. And, just as in improv, where there are no wrong answers, just high and low percentage choices, in life, there are no wrong feelings, just wrong actions people sometimes take in reaction to them.

My own mind is messier than usual right now – too much time, and too little being required of me, I think. I’ll be working, these next few weeks, to reorganize mentally as well as physically.

But not completely, because sometimes I think it’s the messes we make that keep us interesting.