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Messy Middles

I’ve been a writer since my early teens, and have even had the privilege of being published (which I hope to do so again one day). I’ve learned a few things about storytelling, and story writing, over the years.

One of the most important elements of story writing is the messy middle. This is where the protagonist seems to be furthest away from the objective which started the story. Obstacles are everywhere, and nothing is going right. This is also where the writer feels most overwhelmed by the process, where she wonders why she ever decided to write in the first place, and feels certain no one will ever want to read the finished product.

This is where it is most important to remember that the magic is in the mess. To put it another way, this is where it is most important to remember to trust the process. Just keep putting the story bits down on paper (or onto the computer screen). As long as the writer doesn’t stop engaging with the mess, there will come a day when, like turning a kaleidoscope, the bits begin to fall into place and a pattern begins to emerge.

To put it another way, chaos is the birthplace of creativity.

Chaos is where I have to first acknowledge that I am not in control of the process, and then engage with the resulting uncertainty. Chaos is where I must surrender.

I am feeling this “messy middle” in life in general these days. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant and the various resulting reactions and consequences have brought me up against my own addiction to the illusion of control. I have “done all the right things”, and still the case counts surge. Appointments have cancelled or rescheduled. Masks have become more important, not less. I feel genuine fear for those in the health care system who are already burned out and are now being required to somehow be stronger, more attentive, and more caring than ever. I see the weariness and discouragement on the faces of friends who own businesses that are once again being limited in capacity, that are once again being pushed to the edge of having to close their doors permanently. It all feels overwhelming.

I have no idea what is being born in this chaos. I have no answers. There are moments when I’m not sure I even have hope.

That’s when I choose to remember the promise of the messy middle. The promise isn’t that things will get easier, or prettier, or less complicated. The promise is that I can keep living my Truth, whatever that Truth is for today. The promise is that I am not alone, that Christmas comes each year, in the darkest time of the year, to remind me that the Divine lives among us and that the darkness and the chaos never, ever have the last word, that something new is always being gestated in the dark.

There is an invitation here, as well. I am being invited to participate with the gestation process by giving deep and tender attention to myself. What do I need, this day, in this moment, for comfort, for inner nourishment, for rest? What loving action can I take to help anchor myself, to attend to all of the uncomfortable emotions being stirred?

That is the magic of rebirth right here, in the messy middle--each tiny action I take on my own behalf and to express love and care for those around me.

That's my Truth for today--the mess is not the end.

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