Beautiful Mess

I met a new neighbor yesterday. I had met his fiancé a few days before and to both of them, I said apologetically, “I’m not so good about maintenance, sorry about my yard.”


He replied something like, “It’s fine. My mom loves your yard because there’s so much going on.” My yard is full of perennials that are thriving. It is also full of weeds that are thriving.  

My neighbor on the other side also often tells me how much she loves my yard.

A friend came over last week to help me weed and plant veggies. At one point I looked at an area dense with vegetation, none of which I planted, all of which I consider weeds, and lamented how overgrown it was. He said he’d rather see that- with all of its variety, than a yard of grass. He talked a bit about the value of diversity- how each plant…and bug…and every other creature both give and receive in ways that ultimately promote a healthier ecosystem. Looking again, I acknowledged that it was pretty. I noticed all sorts of shapes and sizes of plants and leaves, with so many nuanced hues of green.

This hasn’t stopped me from slowly but surely pulling those weeds and covering the ground with mulch, planting flowers, herbs, vegetables, because I like the tidy mulched look and the idea that by creating some order, I am contributing to the beauty in my yard.

I’ve also been creating more order in my home. This is an ongoing process that has been happening in fits and spurts over several years, as I finally get rid of papers, photos, memorabilia from grad school…college…high school…grade school. Going through those things has provided some fun walks down memory lane, and getting rid of them gives me more space, literally and figuratively, to live in the present.

I believe this process of external clearing in both house and yard is a reflection of the internal clearing happening. Slowly I’m clearing out the weeds of doubt that can clutter my mind, throwing out ideas that no longer fit me or serve the purpose they once did, making space for new ideas, new clarity, freedom.

Even as I clear and tidy up, I reflect on why having order is so important. Why am I apologizing for my beautiful messy uncontrolled yard, the one Mother Nature fills bountifully when I’m not tending it? Why do I apologize or try to hide my beautiful messy self?

More than once I’ve heard friends lament the state of their children’s rooms, saying something like, “I can’t even go in there. I have to close the door it’s so messy.”

When I hear such statements, having been one of those kids, I feel myself tense up. Depending on who has said it, I may respond, “You know, your child can be messy and still contribute in wonderful and significant ways. Being neat or messy is not an indication of your child’s worth or ability to do great things.”

At age 46, I am still in the process of accepting my beautiful messy self and remembering that my value is not contingent on the orderliness of my house, yard, or self. As with my yard, I too often see only the mess and fail to see the luscious blooms of beauty blossoming, or the seeds of truth, love, wisdom sprouting in me. I may not notice my roots anchoring me in a way that also helps others stay steady or find grounding. I may forget to fully acknowledge and celebrate the fruits of my labors, because I am too focused on the labor yet to come.

Those who know me best have seen the mess- the physical mess, the inconsistencies between values and action, the times I forget everything I teach, the times I strive to practice what I preach and still get it wrong- and still accept me and love me. Even knowing that, I try to hide those parts I consider unsightly.

And yet when I reflect on the people who are dear to me, it is the ones I’ve shared the mess with, who’ve shared theirs with me, who I feel closest to. We’ve seen each other in wholeness.

Broken wholeness.

Messy order.

Imperfect perfection.

We’ve seen the beauty in the “so much going on.”

We’ve allowed each other to see the chaotic process of transformation, sometimes chosen, sometimes imposed by circumstances over which we have no control, often a little bit of both.

I don’t disparage order. I appreciate the outcomes of clearing space and organizing in my house, my yard, myself.

I also honor and celebrate the potential and the as-it-is-now of the mess.

The beautiful mess.