“I’m a work in prog-mess.”
When I heard this phrase in an episode of Ted Lasso, I pointed at the screen and squealed, “YES! That’s me! I am a work in prog-mess!”
“I’m a mess!” I used to say whenever my hope for perfection was lost in a tangle of uncomfortable emotions or sticky situations or yarn.
The knots and tangles of yarn were objectively messy, but my thoughts around those other discomforting spaces were filled with the judgment of a thousand perfect angels swinging above my head singing, “You’re a mess! You’re a mess! You’ll never be perfect as us, you mess!”
(Though how perfect can they be with such a bad song?)
That “I’m a mess” thought arises when we feel we’ve done something stupid, like saying “Fine, and you?” to the cashier before they’ve had the chance to ask how your day is going.
Or when we’ve done something wrong, like arriving late to an important gathering due to the cup of tea that was supposed to calm your nerves but instead went down the entire length of your dress so you had to change and now you want to sneak in but the only seats left are at the front of the room.
Or when we’ve failed ourselves by not showing up to write one morning (after writing for five mornings in a row) because the night-long hot flashes left us awake in soggy sheets thinking, “I’m a sticky drippy messy TOAD!”
But here’s the thing.
The situation is a mess.
The surroundings are a mess.
The emotions are messy.
You are not a mess. You are continually working on yourself, to make yourself better in whatever way you choose. To be nice to the harried cashier. To support your friend at their important event. To help an acquaintance untangle their skein so they can enjoy knit-night.
To show up for your creativity as much as you can.
You are a work in prog-mess.
And that’s all the perfection any of us can hope for.