I just had a mid-life crisis in the middle of my kitchen.
It only lasted a few seconds, but it was enough of a sucker punch to the gut to temporarily knock the breath from me and send the room spinning.
I’d been sitting there in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day, when with great terror I realized that I’m nearing fifty—and I don’t have any of my sh*t together.
Like, none of it.
Oh sure, I have a house and a family and a pretty decent career and all that, but that stuff’s all just window dressing; a fancy new slip cover concealing decades of stains and holes and discoloration hidden underneath. The ugly truth is, I don’t feel I’m much better at this Life thing than I was twenty-five years ago—and that really ticks me off.
When I was younger, I was always looking ahead to a day somewhere off in the distance when I would be a proper, fully formed adult; when my many insecurities wouldn’t be such a regular hindrance, when my nagging flaws wouldn’t show up so often to gloriously sabotage my day, when I didn’t drop the freakin’ ball with such stunning consistency.
That day was supposed to be this day.
That adult was supposed to be me.
This was going to be the part of the story when the sh*t would be together.
Back then, I imagined that the me I am today would be a whole lot more refined and well-adjusted and mature than I am—and this mornings’ realization was an existential dirty bomb going off in my psyche. It was a brief moment of pulse-raising, disorienting panic.
But almost immediately, a question popped into my head, like a cool, fresh breeze clearing out the thick, toxic air surrounding me:
What if the sh*t isn’t supposed to be together?
I’d honestly never considered that.
In my constant, desperate, sweaty striving to get and keep it all together, I never stopped to ask myself whether this was ever a promise or a requirement. The more I thought about it, no one ever told me that this was an aspiration or an expectation. Somewhere along the line I just assumed it. I placed that impossible burden upon my own shoulders and have lived perpetually underperforming ever since.
But when I look at the people I admire, those I adore, those whose lives have paved a path for me worth walking in, most of them were and are a fairly chaotic, cluttered, disheveled mess. In fact, get close enough to anyone and you’ll see it. You’ll realize just how riddled everyone is with the ever-recycled junk that they can’t seem to discard.
We’re all rightly soiled.
Maybe that filthy mess is where the sweet spot of living is. Maybe the point of this journey is to revel in it all; to embrace every unfinished, rough edged, stinking, sloppy part of ourselves, because that is where our distinct and specific beauty lies. Maybe wisdom or enlightenment or wholeness are a whole lot grittier and a whole lot less grand than we once believed. Maybe success is simply about moving through the middle of the mess, knowing that we can only be where and who we are right now.
Truthfully, there is no finishing of ourselves to be done here. The only time we’re finished is when the last breath leaves us and our heart ceases its beating. Until then, the illusion of perfection might be the greatest barrier to joy that any of us has. Maybe we should toss it and flush it, and be okay with something a little less perfect from ourselves and from other people.
Friend, the bad news is that you probably don’t have your sh*t together and you likely never will.
The better news—is that you’re in really good company.