I’ve always been a messy person. Always. I don't put my laundry up right away. My car usually has stuff everywhere in it. My closet is a mess. I've always been like this. I'm not disgusting. That's not what I mean. I mean I just don't have things in a disciplined, proper order as if right now In this moment. I know how to not be messy. I know the mechanics of folding and hanging things up. I get the wizardry behind how drawers close. I know how it should all look in my head. I just make a choice not to all the time. I'm an adult and I can make that choice. But eventually I'll get tired of seeing that pile of clothes sitting there or I'll grow weary of stuff stacked on other stuff, and I'll clean it all up and make it look neat and tidy. That works for a few days and then it'll be right as it was before, clothes needing to be put away and mail to be sorted. That's just me. I'm just messy at times.
Right now, inside, I feel messy. Things aren't put away right, one or two thoughts are not where they should be, past feelings and emotions are stacked all on top of each other waiting to be folded and hung where they should be. Usually my inner messy doesn't hurt anyone else but sometimes because of my lazy and careless behaviors my messy spills over into someone else's life and they are affected. It's embarrassing. It's frustrating. It's rude. Why? Because it's my messy and how it affects others is totally controllable. I could have fixed it before the wheels came off. If I would have taken the time to take care of my mess then it wouldn't have affected others and caused even more work to fix then doing it right in the first place. It happens more than it should and that's on me.
We have these self-negotiations with ourselves every dayand we decide if the messy or weakness has reached a point of critical mass and must be taken care of. I have to reach a point where I'm tired of it and fix the behavior. A door is a door until you put legs on it and make it a table. The actions in your life will be those same actions until you change the behavior and start doing something new.
In this long journey, let's call it a vision quest, I’ve been on for the last 6 years one thing I’ve struggled with is this idea that, to the rest of the world, weaknesses or messy equals shame. That if you’re messy is showing it's wrong and shouldn't be brought up in polite conversation. That was a lie that caused me miles of pain and unnecessary hurt when I was coming to grips and dealing with my depression and anxiety. Because I was sad, sometimes I was wrong. I was told to just be happy and to toughen up. I was told that my anxiety was wrong and that is weird to feel uncomfortable in public. I started to believe that I was not right and that I was an outcast because I had depression. This truth is that people shouldn't be ashamed of their weaknesses. We all have them and we all succumb to them at times. Those could be as small as not putting laundry away or as large as a heavy addiction. We all have weaknesses. All of us. That person you're sittingnext to at the coffee place? Weaknesses. The person you look up to? Messy. The name that's in the papers every day? Messy.
We're human. We have faults. We have our weaknesses or messy in our lives every day. So what do we do? How to we fix the messy? Realize that it's a part of you. It's not the best part but it is a part of you. The problem is when we let the messy control us and not the other way around. You will never defeat your weaknesses totally. Your messy will always be there but you can make the disciplined decision to control your messy and how much it affects you and those around you. It's not easy. It's hard and it sucks. It sucks and it's dumb and we wish it would go away but it won't. We can't hide our heads under the sand about our messy either. If we don't start controlling the messy today then eventually it'll be too much to handle and that's when it becomes destructive to you and the people around you.
Here are 6 steps that I've learned in controlling my messy inside. Again. Just stuff I've discovered. But it worked for me, so why not you?
1) Acknowledge your messy.
- Give it a name. Call it out. You know what it is and how it manifests.
2) Messy does not equal shame- take that pressure off yourself.
- Allow yourself to be human and screw up and make mistakes. Allow yourself the power of the knowledge that your messy does not equal shame!
3) Look for ways to introduce new actions to minimize the messy
- I know when my depression or anxiety or messy starts popping up. I've learned the warning signs so that I can so anticipate what the messy will do and then I change my behavior to minimize the impact. Rather than staying in bed for three days because I was blindsided by el jerko depression, I see the signs. I'm aware of what to do to avoid that situation. No three-day sad bed bender and I'm out living life like a person. Build on your strength and minimize your weaknesses.
4) Do those actions.
- If you don't start ASAP to change the actions and introduce new behavior, you'll just be back to square one. It's not going to be easy. Growth never is, but it's worth it. A door is a door until you put legs on it and make it a table.
5) Almost a repeat of #3, but focus on being aware of the calls that the messy is headed back to town.
- You know you better than anyone and you know what you need vs what you want. Learn to listen to what your inner voice is telling you. It's like I say in improv and acting classes: Quiet the noise and listen.
6) When you fail don't beat yourself up over it. Fix it. Apologize. Try to make it right and then move on.
- You’re going to screw up and fail. One of the greatest gifts I ever gave myself was the ability to allow myself to fail. If you fail and your messy leaps over to someone else's yard. Own it. Apologize, learn and move on. If it's just you and your messy? Same thing.
Repeat as necessary as many times as it takes.
Listen, these aren't scientific facts or anything. Just the thoughts of a messy guy who's had to get himself out of plenty of self-inflicted mess ups, “ the universe was bored and decided it would throw me a curveball” kind of messes, and everything in-between. I’ve had to get myself out of these messes for a long time. I'm not a licensed therapist; I've just been through a lot of crap. I'm working on me and my messy and each day I get a little better at it.
jeff Jenkins is an award winning comedian, actor, writer, producer and director and writes about how improv comedy helps him in his ongoing battle with depression and living his best improvised life.