Stories for Lent: #18 Taste for a mess

I Kondo-ed my stuff towards the end of last year. “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying” was still a hit, and I was looking for a way to make my life easier, neater, more in line with the person I was hoping to be. (Not gonna lie, the barrage of enthusiastic beauty gurus on YouTube recommending that book also had a part to play. I mean, have you seen a streamlined Alex drawer? It’s a thing of wonder.) For a little while, I sat there, enjoying the look of a clean floor, the lack of guilty unread books, the gaps in my wardrobe left by ill-fitting garments that made me look like someone’s Nana. I breathed a little easier, having divested myself of the things that made me feel bad, things that I was holding onto despite them serving no purpose other than making me feel guilty.

Then the mess started creeping up again.


Those of you who have read these Lenten stories so far will notice that perfectionism is a recurring theme in my life. It is not THE Siren Song, but it is a pretty compelling one nonetheless:

“If only I was better at juggling my work-life balance.”

“If only I bought less stuff.”

“If only I said no more.”

“If only I was skinnier, prettier, and kept up a regular exercise schedule despite being constantly ill.”

“If only I didn’t have all those messy, ugly, human feelings whenever I went to a doctor, I wouldn’t get so offended when I was treated like a piece of meat on the patient’s seat.”

Yes. Let us make our lives more sterile, more streamlined, more empty. Get rid of all that you don’t need, anything that doesn’t “spark joy” immediately. Forget about the fact that you’re depressed, that you over-exercise and under-feed yourself, and you are liable to have an epic mood swing at any moment. Turn your space into a doctor’s surgery, and practice being the piece of meat all the time.

And yes, I realize how deranged all of that sounds. I’m living this life because there’s no-one to tell me otherwise.


I painted yesterday, for the first time in months. Just a rough pencil outline, followed by a crush of colors, mixing on the top side of my palette and making a big, glorious, murky mess.

It wasn’t what I wanted, not entirely, but it was oh, so satisfying.

When the acrylic dried down and faded into less shocking hues of blue and brown and green, I got my pens and I went over the finer lines, adding and defining, bringing out the eyes and lips and hair tendrils that I couldn’t get quite sharply enough with a brush. It was still a mess, but one that I understood, one that I could navigate.

One that, dare I say, I was comfortable in.


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