On Being a Mess

I had a short session recently with David Goldsmith, one of my mentors in a professional development program I’ve been part of for the past couple of years.
I never fail to take something of value from our brief conversations, and yesterday was no exception.
It took a while – a whopping 20 minutes – for the impact of what David had said to find traction, but when rubber met road, I experienced what, in the world of F1 auto racing, would be called a full lock-up.
The car is still moving, but the wheels aren’t and, as you may imagine, there’s a lot of smoking “tyres” (F1 cars have the British version) and little, if any, control.
What, exactly, did David say?
“Be gentle with yourself.”
I’m not sure if he was sensing that my ears were malfunctioning, if I was doing a drive-by, or something else entirely, but he said it two or three times.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know I do my best to be as transparent as possible.  I’m not one for oversharing, intimate tell-all exhibitionism, or dishing on every detail of every dinner.  In fact, lately I’ve developed what I’d call a “tasteful aversion” to posting much beyond articles and podcast news on social media.
On the other hand, if I consider myself a leader worth an iota of my salt, it’s important to show up as a real, fallible, feeling, and yes – vulnerable – flesh and blood human being.
While I’d been allowing myself to be, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, “out to sea,” there was a way in which I’d insisted on keeping one hand on the tiller, imagining that that would give me at least some sense of control as I navigated an ocean of grief after the loss of my father.
“Be gentle with yourself.”
When the lock-up came to its end, I looked at the car, which happens to be me, and came to the realization that, if I’m being honest, I’m a smoking mess.
By the way, I’d rather ironically ended the “out to sea” article with an invitation to readers to be compassionate and gentle with themselves.
Yeah.  That very thing.
I’m of the opinion that attending the party one throws is always a good thing, so I’m glad David took the liberty to speak up about something that wasn’t anywhere (consciously) on our agenda.
I’m not sure how long I’ll be a mess, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll be until it isn’t anymore.  And knowing a thing or two about how grief does its thing, I’ll likely be revisiting smoking messiness on and off for months, if not years, to come.
If I’m honest with myself, the tiller and its accompanying illusion wasn’t all that interesting.  After all, hanging on to control is all about clinging to the known…
And there’s nothing new to be learned there.
“Be gentle with yourself.”