My whole life I have wanted to be the “most” something. The most beautiful. The most talented. The most intelligent. The most successful. And not to spoil the ending for you, but it turns out there is always someone “most”-er than me. Or you.
So it became kind of difficult to write about my “messy beautiful” because the second I read the description of Glennon’s project, my brain instantly started trying to pick out the “most” messy beautiful story of my life. And then compared it to all the hypothetical “mosts” of all the other writers. Which of my stories would stand out to be the “most” in the crowd.
Well, I racked my brain every day. I thought about my young divorce and my first-time-mom struggles and my body-image crusade and the hard decisions I have made about career, love, and parenthood, and how each and every one of those things is the epitome of messy beautiful. But none of those would do. They just weren’t the “most” anything. How could I possibly stand out with one of those stories, that surely thousands of other people had experienced? None of my stories were good enough. I knew someone would have something better.
And then I started reading the other essays as they came in. And it took me a second to realize, but I totally missed the boat. Because this project is nothing about a competition of mosts. It is about recognizing sames. I read a few essays and said “Me too!” and laughed with a few because I “got” what they were saying, and cried with a few because I had been there too.
And you know what else? I took a deep breath for the first time thinking about this project. Because it is damn exhausting trying to be the “most” at something. Anytime I am trying to be the “most” I find myself dissapointed. And tired. And crabby. This project was a reminder that LIFE IS NOT A COMPETITION.
There is no “better” messy beautiful. There are big, huge, supernova messy beautifuls – like the road I took to marry my husband. That one’s a story with the messiest twists and turns that ends with the most massive display of beautiful I can imagine. But there are also little, ordinary, mundane messy beautifuls – like watching my daughter grow so fast I can hardly breathe because I am afraid I will miss something.
I remember complaining to my husband years ago that I wanted to build my own best friend. She would hate camping and outdoor activities in general, and instead would love watching and discussing every show on Bravo. She would prefer a strong vodka martini to wine or beer and would hate working out, unless it was yoga. She would be on the same page as me politically and we would have long conversations about feminism. Because clearly, these are the most important characteristics of friendship. My husband laughed and said “So, you want to be friends with yourself?”
I have amazing friends. But all of them love camping, none of them watch Bravo, and they all have some weird affinity for wine. Some are polar opposite of me on the political spectrum. They also accept me, love me, and care for me in moments where I am lovable and moments when I am not. My friends recognize the “sames” in me rather than the “mosts”. Like, I know what anxiety feels like. And so do a lot of my friends. And it turns out, so do a lot of people in general. I may never join my friends for a hike, but we can experience intense love, appreciation, and connection with each other when we talk about our messy beautiful lives.
My messy beautiful is that I am the most me of anyone. Nobody can write the exact story of my messy beautiful life, except for me. Nobody I know is the exact combination of brave (in things like public speaking and natural childbirth) and scared (of things like bees and going make-up free in public) as me. Nobody I know has had the experiences I have had, nobody I know has held these thoughts in their head the way I have. My life is beautiful because it is mine and nobody else’s. It’s beautiful because I get to make all my own choices and find out what surprises lay ahead. To find out what messy turns into which beautiful. I am the most messy beautiful me that ever existed.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!