When we visit Toronto, I am a mess.
It’s not the falling apart, sobbing on the bathroom floor type of mess.
It’s more of a tangled ball of yarn type of mess. The type where the more you try to untangle, the more tangled it gets. The disorganized chaos of knots. Every time I sit to untangle one, I inadvertently make one more.
It’s the mess where I am the chipped teacup again trying to drink without spilling.
The mess that is beautiful because I choose to feel, to connect, and to love.
That type of mess.
If I could colour code my emotions on a graph, it would look something like this. A beautiful mess of blending, bleeding mix that seep and layer each other.
We don’t have a car or cell service so I am working double overtime on logistics for seven people – managing meet-ups with friends, seeing sights, and eating at our favourite places. We are also trying to spend as much time with my parents and Chris’ parents whose hearts all ache even more when we are with them than when we are away.
It’s that deep messy love in the face of longing for more while appreciating what you got.
I know this because this is the same way we feel when we are with our eldest.
My specific challenges include navigating plans with my adult daughter. I forget that she no longer needs to “check-in” with me. Needless to say, a part of me that still clings to my little girl would like her surgically attached to my hip for the entire visit. This is a knot I have given up trying to untangle. I live with it by arranging to see her physical face almost everyday but this means that I painstakingly try to fit my schedule to accommodate her schedule.
I tied a big knot for myself one day when she made plans with her sister that countered my plans. I watched myself say the things that I never say nor believe. I told her it was too complicated logistically. I told her that if she didn’t spend enough time with me, she would make a fuss when I couldn’t answer her calls when we went back to Costa Rica. I laid the guilt thick like pouring concrete on the perfectly fertile soil she was cultivating with her siblings.
She was pissed and said the thing that is my kryptonite:
“Ma, you’re projecting.”
She cancelled the plans and I had to apologize profusely for my insanity. I WAS TOTALLY PROJECTING. Face palm. She never holds anything against me when I can’t return her call right away. When she visits us, she goes with the flow even though we ask her what she wants to do. She always says, “I am ok with tagging along.” And she is. She says what she means and means what she says.
I tell her that I am still figuring out how to do this thing with her and the rest of my family and friends. I tell her I am a bit of mess. She tells me, “Mom, I will always have your back. I see you struggling. Tell me what you need right now.” I feel guilty but my little knot loosens and we are communicating better for the rest of the trip.
It’s like I forget how to adapt to the cold, to the city, and to all of my relationships. I forget to breathe. I find myself holding my breath thinking this will at least keep the ball of yarn as a ball even if it’s a disheveled mess. The perception of a rough form is enough.
I often see this Leonard Cohen quote from his song Anthem:
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
Leaving Toronto left a huge fissure, not just a crack. We are still learning how to build a bridge instead of climbing onto the branch that precariously hangs across the abyss, reaching for the other side.
We are learning to mend, how to knit with knots that may never really get untangled but will remain a part of the blanket of our family story.
- Copy the whole Leonard Cohen lyrics to that song. We forget the other lines that are lovely: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget the perfect offering.”
- Write about mess and the beautiful possibilities that can come from a messy situation, a messy relationship, a messy life.
- Draw/paint a mess on a blank page not worrying about what comes out of it.