Friday Open Thread (with messes)

Dear Friends,

There are, I think, several species of the genus mess. There’s the mess that accrues from inertia; there’s the mess that follows a dinner party, or any kind of party, the mess of jubilation’s wake; and there’s the kind of mess I’m in, the mess of half-way, the mess of dismantling your structures in order to understand them and build something better.

It’s very hard to hold on to the promise of better structures while in the midst of mess. Right now, all I see is the absence of stacks, chaos where there was order, even if that order was crowding and oppressive, full of things I didn’t want to look at too closely because I’d be forced to make uncomfortable decisions. In aggregate, everything overwhelms. But whenever I feel a pang of loss for something that was tidy and is now a mess, I find myself imagining order in the new place, something that I will take joy in building from the ground up instead of making do with, something that will be more hospitable to all the parts of me that aren’t whittled into work-shape alone.

I genuinely did not set out to make a metaphor of this Open Thread; I am literally just getting ready to move, which means looking around at all the items that have been background noise for four years and foregrounding them, assessing them, deciding whether to hold on or let go. But messes are also the natural habitat of metaphor, of our pattern-seeking selves trying to make something of it all.

I think we also, usually, want to hide our messes, or apologize for them. It feels presumptuous to ask you about your messes. When someone visits — visited, perhaps I should say, in the beforetimes — it never matters how much I clean beforehand, I’ll still say “sorry for the mess” as friends walk in and mean it, an apology for the gap between reality and my ideal self.

But friends will also not remark on the mess — will, most often, not see it, seeing only you, the friend, in the fullness of that friendship, never lacking, always more than enough.

So in that spirit — please, feel free to tell me of messes. Is there one thing that you need always to be clean? Or something that makes you feel more comfortable the messier it is? Unclench your jaws, let your shoulders drop, and speak to me of messes.