I hate mess.
I mean, I don’t hate physical mess. You can ask my husband about how I leave my clothes strewn around our house like a Hansel-and-Gretel-esque breadcrumb trail of clothes. I also never know where anything is and I’m ok living in a bit of grime, leaving it far too long between kitchen cleans and bathroom wipe-downs (possible a bit too much of an overshare, sorry!).
But that’s me.
I’m ok with physical mess.
What I can’t bear is messy relationships.
My parents rarely fought growing up, but when a tense word was spoken or a disagreement took place, I did what I could to diffuse any tension. Practically singing and dancing to take the focus off the argument, I wanted to make everything right.
And that still stands true today.
I feel an intense discomfort when people around me are not getting on. When there are underlying tensions or I know that people have overt dislikes for others, I want to fix everything into a neat, tidy little box where everyone is happy and gets on.
But I’m learning that this isn’t possible. It isn’t my role to be the permanent peacekeeper in other people’s lives, nor is it something I have power over.
So I need to become more comfortable with the mess.
The challenge is how to do this.
So I’ve been thinking this morning about how I can let go of this need for control. Because life is messy, things get broken, people change, relationships move on, people get into disagreements and it’s not my place to try to mend everything.
I think the discomfort with emotional mess is to do with my sensitivity; I’m what I’d describe as an empath, I feel and can take on other people’s emotions really easily. I physically feel the tension when things are left unsaid. I take on the sadness when someone gets left out. I feel the anger of people not feeling understood.
And I don’t know what to do with how I feel.
When I get the urge to binge in order to press down my feelings, I’m able to ask myself what I’m truly feeling. Just by inviting the underlying feeling to come to the surface, I’m able to let it go. I’m able to say ‘it’s ok, you’re just tired’ or ‘it’s ok, you’re feeling bored’ or ‘it’s ok, you’re feeling hurt’.
So logically, I think that I might need to do the same thing with other people’s emotions – surface the feelings in order to release them.
But there’s something inside me which resists this.
Am I worried that the feelings will be too strong for me?
It is because I’m resisting the notion that this isn’t something I can control?
I’m not sure.
I know part of it is fear – fear of change, fear of letting go, fear of how I’d feel to open myself up to the feeling of discomfort, pain, sadness.
And part of it is that I’m not used to doing this, so in the moment, I forget that I need to feel what’s going on in order to let the feelings wash over me.
Part of it is in my identity. I’m the listener. I’m the person who people confide in. And so perhaps part of letting go will involve putting in place healthier boundaries to not get drawn into every dispute.
So there are a lot of different things at play here. Even unpacking how I feel is hard – it feels very messy in itself!
But I know that I’m making a start of breaking free from the unhealthy patterns that are no longer serving me. Just by acknowledging where I am and what is going on for me is the start of a change.
I won’t force things – try to make everything better right here, right now or find a 5 step solution to solving all my issues. I’m just going to sit with these thoughts and see where they take me.