Our memories are strange creatures. I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I set my coffee cup five minutes ago. But I can recall with sharp clarity a picture I colored in kindergarten.
It was one of those worksheets with the purply-blue ink. Color three of the bananas yellow. Color two of the strawberries red. Color five of the grape clusters purple. You get the picture.
Why do I remember this insignificant piece of ditto paper? That was fifty years ago! Yet the whereabouts of my coffee cup remains a mystery.
I'll tell you why. The day I completed that assignment, the weather was dark and stormy. Which prompted my mom to meet me in my classroom after school. I remember the onslaught of many moms...the wet umbrellas dripping profusely on our classroom floor. I was glad my mom was among the crowd of grown-ups.
My teacher greeted the parents, but paused when she got to mine. My heart jumped, wondering if I was in trouble. But her smile told me otherwise.
"I want to show you something," she said to my mom as she led her to my desk. "Julie did so well on her assignment today. In fact, she's the only one who stayed within the lines."
My mom admired my worksheet, praising me for my uncanny ability to color every purple grape on those clusters without once crossing the lines.
The only one!, I thought to myself. Little did I know this was the beginning of a life lesson based on truth and appearances. But not on wisdom.
As I navigated through childhood, I picked up on similar messages. When I kept within the lines of what appeared nice and tidy, I was doing okay. But when I veered, there was a shift in how I was perceived and treated.
When my room was clean and organized, I had my mother's approval. But if she discovered toys under my bed or a closet jammed with items I'd pushed out of sight, I received a scowl and a scolding.
The same held true for emotions. If my feelings were hurt and the tears flowed, I was told not to cry. Emotional outbursts were too messy and unbecoming.
I got the message loud and clear ~ Stay within the lines of what appears nice and tidy.
Fifty years later, I still wrestle with this. I recoil when an unexpected visitor knocks at my door and the house is in disarray. I still find it difficult to shed tears in front of others, even my husband.
But here, in this season of shifts and changes and unknowns, it feels as though everything is a mess. And those tears I try so hard to hide, they seem to have a life all their own. They come and go as they please, and make their appearances at the most unexpected times.
So much for staying inside the lines and having a life that looks nice and tidy! Truth? The longer I live, the more I see how overrated "nice and tidy" is. In fact, it can cheat me of the really good stuff....the beautiful messy life, overflowing with purpose, passion, and adventure. And yes, a lot of emotions!
I don't know what tomorrow will hold. But I know what I want to let go of ~ that message drilled into me to stay within the lines, to keep it nice and tidy, to swallow back the tears. Those days are gone. Life is too stinking short to live so one-dimensionally!
I can see now, the messy, purposeful life bursting with emotions and unknowns...it's beautiful!
"So what if your life's messy. Perfect isn't the plan. Purpose is." ~Author Unknown