Downright messy: that’s what a rich, vibrant life is. This truth is trumpeted by one of my all-time favorite films, “Mostly Martha,” which I’ve just savored for the unpteenth time.
This messy message may come as no surprise. For if we want people in our lives–yes, magnificent, breathtakingly imperfect human beings–disorder will reign at times. Misunderstandings, check. Misfires, yep. Stumbles and confusion, oh, yeah, baby.
If we seek creativity and exploration and discovery, the missteps and chaos that accompany trekking new territory will, indeed, be frequent visitors.
We recovering control devotees know deep down that mess can be good. The German film illustrates for us just how parched and thin a life can become when one worships at the altar of control. Which is illusory anyway.
As you know if you’ve seen the film, uptight, perfectionistic, lonely restaurant chef, Martha, has drained her life of real flavor and relationships because she clings so relentlessly and rigidly to the notion of control. Only after her lovely, vulnerable young niece crashes into her life does Martha let go.
Et, voila! As she breaks open, vitality floods her life, and heart. Warmth eases and replaces the cold shackles constricting her world. Not surprisingly, the most luscious, sensual of the food scenes appear in this richer, more complex emotional landscape.
Possibly my favorite movie scenes ever involve the sloppy, expansive, talented, charming Italian chef who turns the restaurant kitchen and Martha’s world upside down. His loose, winning way infuses passion, warmth and joy into the movie and the lives of its characters.
If you’re an artist, cook, parent, or honest human being, you recognize the value of messiness. If we’re constantly enforcing tidiness as we pursue a relationship or a project, we’re not truly fostering these pursuits as we’ve always got our eye over there, on the tight dictates of neatness. But the flexibility and flow essential to the adventure of breaking new ground breed muddles–along with creativity and love.
Mess lets the air in. It lets people and processes breathe–and grow.
So, I’ve come to appreciate mess (much of the time, anyway–hey, I’m trying). On a good day, I even treasure it as part of the fertile ground that nurtures my and my family’s adventures, playful (and productive) creativity and dreams.