Get messy

“Get messy! We are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to be messy,” the spin teacher screamed above the din of the beat-thumping music. I, of course, was already messy, sweat pouring down my beet-red face. Panting in all my middle-aged, slightly-chunky glory. 

Mr. Spin has a point though. What freedom there is in just being messy! Let go, let loose, and just do the damn thing. 

Edwin Land said, “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” The moment those whispers of fear and self-doubt creep in, the flames of creativity begin to snuff out. Even worse, when we censor ourselves to fit within someone else’s idea of art or beauty or success, our me-ness is swept silently under the rug.

During quarantine, when time stood still, I took up painting. Mind you, the last time I painted was in 4thgrade art class. This time around, I ordered some painting kits online and tuned into a cheerful blonde on YouTube to choreograph my brush strokes.  

I painted pink peonies, purple hydrangeas, an old-fashioned truck spilling over with flowers, an aqua bicycle, and a blue elephant with a whimsical rainbow jetting from his trunk. I tried to make them perfect. Like a dutiful soldier, I knitted my brow and agonized over every petal. 

But watercolors are amorphous and rebellious and refuse to behave. Blossoming, blooming watercolors spilled onto the page. Messy rivulets swished and mixed into drippy rivers of green, yellow, and blue. Watercolors, with their unrepentant lack of respect for borders, aren’t made for coloring in the lines. 

Finally, I just had to let go, release my death grip on the paint brush, and embrace the mess. I dipped the brush in water and let the drops blur into soft puddles of color. Shapes fell away, and the bigger picture became more important. 

I surrendered to the mess, plowed ahead, and created something. Similarly, in life, sometimes we just have to surrender. We have to loosen our grip on the things we can’t control and let ourselves be carried by the flow and our faith. 

The messy moments will ebb and splash, seemingly chaotic, but the bigger picture will finally appear. Like a mountain emerging from the fog, it will rise up, break though, and flaunt its hills and valleys. It may not be perfect, but somehow it will still be a masterpiece. 

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