I have always been a messy person.
When I was about 10 years old, we went on a school trip and my teacher was so horrified by the state of my cupboard after a few days, she took and PRINTED a photo of it to show my mom.
In high school, you could rarely see the floor of my bedroom. Have you ever seen a teenage girl get ready to go somewhere? Try it on, take it off, throw it on the floor. Repeat several times.
At university, it was my car. Files? Who puts their notes in files when the back seat of your car works just as well?
Step into my life at the young age of twenty-one – Thomas Owen Basson. This is the man whose DVDs are alphabetized. This is the man who has his diary colourcoded and his life goals categorized. This is the man who I knew is NOT in a good place when he starts rearranging the books on my bedside table to relieve his stress. When Tom got into my car the other day, he told me it gives him the hives.
When we first got married, Tom realized that he couldn’t stop Jess the Mess. But, he could hide it. And so we got three washing baskets. One for darks, one for lights, and one for anything lying on the floor that belonged to me.
I’ve always been pretty ok with the fact that I’m messy. I’m not unorganized, I’m just untidy.
But the truth is, life soon teaches you that a mess in UNACCEPTABLE. Being a mess is uncomfortable and awkward. It is NOT ok to be a mess.
And so we start to hide our mess.
Not in washing bins and cupboards and cars. We hide our mess behind fake smiles, and “Fine thanks and you?” and Facebook statuses about how wonderful our lives are. We hide our mess because we are ashamed, and afraid that if anyone sees behind the door, they will be disgusted and walk away. We’re afraid they will try to fix us, change us. But most of all, we are afraid that if we show the mess, no one will love us.
I think that’s what we all really need. Just to be loved.
So when someone is brave enough to share their mess with you, to tell you what’s really going on in their life, how do we respond?
This is something that I really struggle with. Listening to someone else’s story is hard. When we hear someone’s story, we feel like we should tell them what to do, give them advice, help them see the light.
But that is not love. That is not what they need. When someone shows you the mess, what they really need is love.
And here’s the deal: To love is to listen.
I know this girl who loves to give me advice. Every time I tell her anything, she starts off by saying “You know, Jess…” and then tells me what to do.
If I say, “Ahhh I hate going to gym!”
She says, “You know, Jess, exercise really helps your energy levels and you just need to fix a time that is non negotiable and go do it.” (Insert sweet, fake smile here. Gee, thanks.)
If I say, “I can’t seem to get Will to eat vegetables.”
She says, “You know Jess, toddlers can be very fussy so you really have to limit their options so that they just have to eat the veggies”.
When I hear those words, “You know, Jess…”, I just switch off. Even though the advice is usually really, really, good, I feel like she’s not listening to me. I often feel a bit judged, and usually like I’m not doing a very good job of life. I definitely don’t feel loved.
When someone starts to tell their story to you, JUST LISTEN.
Don’t give advice.
Don’t follow-up with “Oh don’t worry, you’ll be fine!” or “No way, same thing happened to me!”
This is harder said than done, but I dare you. I dare you to try this on someone who is having a hard time, or telling you something important to them, or even just complaining about going to gym.
Just listen, and see what happens.
Spoiler Alert: feeling LOVED is what happens.
Join me in this challenge, and lets learn to love each other in this beautiful, messy, life.
A very good read Jess. I shared these exact sentiments with my sister yesterday. Besides showing love by listening, it really is a whole less stressful trying to fix other people and taking on their burdens as your own personal projects to advise. I learned this lesson about 2 years ago when I made myself a promise to never give advice unless someone asks.
Totally! I’ve really enjoyed not trying to think of some wise, profound, life-changing response – it takes a load off.
Wow! So true Jess!!!!!
Glad it resonates with you Lauren.