The Messy Middle


The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens. Brene Brown

This storefront filled with whole oranges ripe and ready for use contrasted with these piles of messy rinds grabbed my attention during a recent trip to Stockholm. We’d pass it every day as we walked through Gamla Stan (old town) filled with narrow, windy cobblestone streets and buildings from the 1700s. Many people might think it an unkempt way to display your product, but why not show the mess created in the process of making a yummy, juicy treat? 

I love seeing the behind the scenes or the process of learning or creating something. Other people’s messes fascinate me. When it comes to my own process though, I have no patience for mess. Intellectually, I understand what Brown communicates here. As a teacher,  I’ve witnessed the magical moment that happens in the middle of the mess whether making a connection between ideas or feeling the flow of a juggling pattern for the first time. I’ve even occasionally experienced it myself. But remembering it when in the depths of my own mess and having the patience to stick with it presents more of a challenge. 

In Dare to Lead, Brene Brown defines vulnerability as “the courage to show up when you can’t predict the outcome or control it.” In other words, showing up when you can’t prevent, organize, or curtail the mess. She also states “the only way I know to get knowledge into our bones is to practice it, screw it up, learn more, repeat.” 

Which leaves me with the question, how can I shift my mindset to not only be more patient with the mess, but actually experience the magic and dig into the juiciness of it? When it comes to travel, I have no problem doing this. For me, the magic of being in a new place overshadows the inconveniences of not knowing one’s way around or not always knowing local customs or language. Our week in Sweden had tons of magical moments from getting a little turned around and then accidentally discovering that our metro pass gave us free ferry rides around Stockholm to visiting a nearby town on the day they happened to be hosting an international festival. 

Maybe I need to experience my day-to-day life with the same “explorer” mindset. What if imagined the messy middle as new territory to explore and anticipate with excitement instead of a dreaded area to avoid? What would I do differently?

I reread this post and thought to myself, “I don’t really need the whole bullet section. Do people really want my suggestions on an ‘explorer mindset’ and does it make the post too long? Instead of going into the explorer mindset, I could compare the perfect oranges in the window to the images we put out on social media compared to the rinds/reality…”

You get the idea. For the sake of keeping things moving and sharing with you my rinds, messy as they may be, I will leave the post as is. Hopefully, it helps you find the patience to experience a few more juicy, magical moments in your own mess.

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