This week I plunge into mess
So tell me what you make of this pop-cultural collision? Californian fashion label Ed Hardy has launched a range of hand sanitisers. The tattoo-motifed label is best known for dressing trash-tastic celebs like Tara Reid and Tommy Lee in expensive, tough-nut versions of your aunt’s experiments with a BeDazzler gun in the early 80s. So this foray into handbag-sized disinfectant is a bit off-kilter, don’t you think? A bit like Mack trucks doing a diffusion line of tampons.
Anyway, hand sanitiser happens to nick an old wound of mine. I despair when I see more evidence of our desperate attempts to control life – be it the germs, dirt, traffic or noise. It’s a slippery slope, much like getting botox. Once you start meddling with the flow of nature, you’ve got to keep going. The more you meddle, the more you find to tweak, to improve. You set yourself on a journey with no satisfying end point.
Now, I could harp on about how we’re the control generation, raised to believe everything can – and should – be tweaked and improved to provide the ultimate comfort we think we deserve. And tell you about a friend who spends the entire night at a restaurant directing waiters to get the music volume just right. Or a relative who’s spent 15 years moving downlights in his ceiling – an inch here, an inch there. It started as a niggling dimmer-switch adjustment – he couldn’t read his book until he got the perfect glow – and domino-ed from there.
But why don’t I work with a case study of just one. Me. If I’m not careful, I can divest much into manipulating the chaos of life. I couldn’t start writing this column until my desk was spotless. Noise is my bugbear. I turn the power off to the bar fridge in hotel rooms. And at yoga I arrive late so I can orchestrate the perfect position around everyone else – away from the noisy breather and the girl who sniffs.
Invariably the old guy who hmmmffs during downward-facing dog plonks himself next to me as class starts. And I’m stuffed.
It’s a trap, this control thing. The more you try to control life’s flow, the more uncontrollable the current becomes. So, the more we try to curb germs with sanitiser, the more health complaints we encounter (a recent Queensland study blames increased rates in autoimmune diseases on our germ phobia).
For many of us, though, the day comes when we realise that the greatest control comes when you let go of control. But how do you do that when you’ve only ever known a white-knuckled grip on existence?
Last weekend I attended two kid’s birthday parties and watched toddlers eat cake. Ever watched a kid eat cake? They don’t care to control the mess or the fly in their eye. And they enjoy the cake all the more for it. In fact, I think kids make as much mess as possible, plunge for puddles and aim straight for the most uncomfortable angle for getting sand in their nappy because they know it makes life happier.
It’s being “happy in spite of”. The contrast of far-from-perfect conditions makes what we’re doing seem even more enjoyable. Camping food, prepared in dirt and stirred with a stick, always tastes better than what you get at home, for instance.
Herein lies the secret to letting go: move towards the chaos, embrace the germs and sit in the mess, instead of trying to contain it. This isn’t about giving in, or shutting out discomfort. It’s more active than that. It’s about heading directly for the uncontrolled mess. Stepping into it, smearing it on our faces. It’s about owning “in spite of” conditions.
After the kids’ parties, I went to yoga and plonked right down next to hmmmff man. Funnily, I found his hmmmffing created a relaxing rhythm to my practice and distracted me from the countless other things I focus on once I’m on a white-knuckled roll. On Sunday I went on a bushwalk, in spite of torrential rain. I chose to be soaked. And at the café afterwards I chose the draftiest seat under the noisiest speakers and had the best old time wobbling around with a table that needed a wedge under it. My sandwich came out cold. And burnt. But I wound up chatting with a really interesting old lady and had the best afternoon.
I’d love to know, how do you plunge into the messiness of life?