I’m almost back to writing to you after an unintended hiatus from this space, but for now I’m sitting in a half-full, lukewarm bathtub, typing this on my phone and ignoring the kids’ bedtime in favor of waiting for the water heater to kick in enough so I can finish filling said tub all the way. In the meantime, I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it to get out and drip across the floor cluttered with discarded shoes and week-old kid clothes to dig through the drawers under the sink on the off chance I’ll find an unused razor cartridge because the one I have is complete crap, and I keep forgetting to take out a second mortgage so I can buy more.
I’ve decided writing to you is more fun than good personal hygiene, though, and letting you in on my bath time is more fun than good social boundaries, so here we are, naked and wet in what can only truthfully be called a deep, tepid puddle, looking at our chipped, sky blue toenail polish, and hoping we don’t drop this phone in the drink.
None of which has anything to do with why I’m tapping away on my phone, so I’ll get to point…
Here’s what I need you to know:
I called someone today. On the PHONE! Like we used to do in the olden days.
Her voicemail answered but was abruptly cut off so instead of it saying, “After the tone, leave your message,” it said, “After the tone, leave your mess,” and thought, OMG! WHAT GENIUS IS THIS?
“After the tone, leave your mess,” it said, and I was captivated because I would, in fact, LOVE to leave my mess after the tone. Yes, please. Sign me up.
So I’ve spent the remainder of the day pondering which messes to leave at the tone, and I have a LIST, y’all. A BIG, HUGE list!
I started with the usual ones… I’d leave the sandy, crumby, sticky mess on my couch, and I’d leave the mountains of crusty socks and used undies lining the halls and under the beds.
I’d leave the Nerf bullets and the tiny Lego bits which multiply in every corner and cranny when I’m not looking, and I’d leave the lake of hardened goo that peeks out from under the fridge.
I’d leave my messy schedule and my missed appointments, and I’d leave all the messes I make in my marriage, too, usually with my mouth which moves faster than my head and isn’t tempered well by my heart. Not always.
I’d leave the muddy backyard on the phone and also the bathroom garbage the dog so enthusiastically and thoroughly shredded and dispersed, but not quite in tiny enough pieces to disguise the mangled tampons.
I’d leave the nitpicky impatience I level so often at my kids, and I’d leave the unanswered emails I keep meaning to respond to and haven’t quite managed to get done.
I’d leave the bag of salt and vinegar potato chips that’s under my bed. Right after I have a few more.
And I’d leave a billion things more.
My list went on and on, friends; so many things I’d leave on the phone! It took me a while to run through them all in my head, itemizing the messes I’d leave; an endless laundry list of my housekeeping failures and personal foibles, and with every item, I became more embarrassed and ashamed, because, it turns out, when I’m not guarding against it, I believe the lie that messes are something to be deeply ashamed of, rather than what they really are, which are catalysts for magic and opportunities for mercy; messes, after all, are places we learn forgiveness and grace — for others and ourselves — and the mud and the mire is, always, the proving ground for true friends who will see us through. Community is found in the muck, and the path to the proverbial Village is just littered with mess, and, to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, in the end, I’ve decided when I call the number to leave my mess, I’m going to leave Fake, Perfect Me after the tone, instead, and keep Authentic, Mouthy, Messy Me close by. I mean, Authentic Me has to say “sorry” and “I was wrong” and “please forgive me” way, WAY more than I’d like, and she’s often too loud in public places, but Authentic Me is also kinder and gentler and bolder and braver and more set on loving the people around her than Perfect Me ever is; I suppose because Authentic Me doesn’t have to spend all her energy maintaining shams and facades.
P.S. The ENTIRE point of this WHOLE post, which I never quite managed to get to, is this: I have set up a phone number so you can leave your mess at the tone. Use it for catharsis. Use it as a way of praying. Use it to blow off steam. Or use it like I did, to assess your real mess and what you have to leave behind to be messy, magical YOU. The number is (662) 4MY-MESS.
P.P.S. That’s a real phone number that forwards to my real phone.
P.P.P.S. I know I’m not supposed to give real phone numbers out on the internets or let people leave me real messages on my real voicemail. I’m sure it will come as a surprise to no one, though, that I’m doing the internets wrong. If this ends up being an epic train wreck, I’ll let you know. ‘Til then, leave your mess at the tone.
P.P.P.P.S. If you leave your mess, leave your name, too!
P.P.P.P.P.S. Or a fake name. I just want to know what to call you.
P.P.P.P.P.P.S. I’m no longer in the tub. You know, FYI.
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. In conclusion, call me if you want to leave a mess. (662) 4MY-MESS. I think that translates (662) 469-6377… but don’t hold me to it.