Your Messy, Messy Life

There have been moments, days, even years where “bitch” was a pretty accurate descriptor for me.

Today, I’m pretty sure the only people who think I’m a bitch are those who loathe me and everything I stand for and lack the compassion in their lives to accept someone with a differing view as having worth. Frankly, I feel quite the same way about Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian. Or I would if either had a point of view.

Today, I wake each day with one goal: to live a life that leaves me sated when I place my head on the pillow each night. Days super and shitty and every iteration in between will fill my life. And what’s funny is that making the choice to live a good life (and no mistake — it is a choice) doesn’t lead to better days.

It just leads to better ways of handling the days that don’t turn out as we had planned. Which is pretty much every goddamned day when you sit down and think of it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Some of that has to do wth being a nearly full-time student with 12 hours of classes a week (and yes, we have homework at The Second City). Other bits of it are a combination of self-doubt and blinding excellence, all muddled together in a strange stew of here and now where I can’t seem to get the seasoning right.

But what I’ve been thinking about a lot as of late — in my ever so obvious absence — is messy.

Life is messy. And there are some undeniabale truths about my own mess to which I’m coming to terms:

  • It’s assured that I will always say just the wrong thing at precisely the right time.
  • What I think is funny on occasion…will not be.
  • Best laid plans are usually off getting laid, leaving me to clean up their “didn’t work out” kind of shitstorm.
  • Expectations are the source for nearly all my discontent.
  • People will only be who they are and can never be whom I’d like them to be.
  • There is never a perfect time for anything (unless you pour sarcasm over the word “perfect” like cheese on ballpark nachos).
  • I will never feel safe. Instead, my best offense and defense is to be adventurous and ask Why not? instead of Why?
  • Sure things are anything but.
  • Not everything happens for a reason.
  • It’s okay to get pissed about not knowing the reason, but pissed is energy better spent in the bathroom than in your emotions.
  • I cannot plan brilliance. I can only bump into it in the night in a poorly lit alley, stare into its eyes with a combination of terrified-as-fuck and ohhhhh do you have candy?, and say, “I love you.” That is, when I’m not so scared that I’m running the other way.
  • Sometimes, there are no words.
  • Many times, people will not like the words I choose.
  • And living a good life a messy, remarkably unpretty, yet ever so beautiful life will only happen when I choose to using the best words (and not the right ones) to tell the story I’ve been placed in this universe to tell.

Messy. Life is messy. And there were a good many years decades where I deluded myself into thinking that there were things like the right time, the right words, the right people, places, and things. All of those rights led me to life where I woke up each day, stared at the girl in my mirror and asked, “Who the fuck are you and damn — you’re high maintenance.”

Because she was. It’s hard to keep up a façade. They’re selfish and fussy, demanding and egocentric. They care for no one and nothing except surviving until the next day.

So, let me ask you a question: How much energy are you spending on keeping up appearances?

Checking the boxes instead of saying, “Who’s list is this?”

Doing and saying what you should instead of what you want.

And avoiding the delightful mess that comes along with the unplanned and stolen moments when you know full well you should be somewhere and doing something else?

Living a messy life is one filled with those stolen moments. Tears where you didn’t expect to find them and finding yourself feeling things you didn’t think you could feel.  It’s the aftermath of what started as a lovely evening that devolved into just the right question phrased in precisely the right way to trigger the floodgate on your soul. You know, the floodgate that keeps everything worth feeling at bay and away from the people you’re afraid to disappoint. We don’t want people to see the mess behind the floodgate because it’s…unpretty. So we plan the everliving fuck out of as much as we can in order to stay bold. Stay pretty.

And if there’s anything that my improv classes are teaching me right now it’s that planning will fuck up everything good that is waiting to happen…

if only we’d be brave enough to let it.

So what do we do if we can’t plan? Surely, life and business can’t all be lived with any measure of success without a roadmap.

What I’m coming to realize is that planning is all well and good and has a certain value.

The whole execution thing, however…that requires you to be brave.

And brave is never pretty. It’s never clean, processed, chopped, and packaged.

It’s messy.

Which is why messy is a good life. And the best life I can ever imagine living. It’s why I love humor and taking people to an uncomfortable place where laughter is the only possible coping mechanism. When we can laugh at our flaws and learn from them, flawesome happens.

Epically flawed, but awesome.

So maybe today you’ll embrace a bit of messy, realizing that a bed is never still perfectly made once love’s been made on it. You’ll think less about the right time and more about the best feeling. And perhaps (just perhaps) you’ll think about what a “good life” means to you.

Because it’s certainly not the same for everyone.

Find your mess, sugarbritches. It looks good on you.


Enjoy this bit from Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project. He’s always someone who reminds me to love my mess.


Erika -

Thank you for sharing your post!!

It is very inspiring and you are right on the mark.  We have to accept that messes are part of life and that we need to learn from them and make them work toward our advantage.   That messiness is really part of the 'ride that we call life.  Thank you!!


It's not planning per se that fucks up everything good waiting to happen. It's slavish devotion to a plan or an inability to recognize when circumstances render a plan obsolete or unrealistic. The key is knowing that no plan survives contact with reality, to paraphrase a military maxim.


Thank you - thank you - thank you - for the punch back to reality. 

Just last night I heard for the umpteenth time that "it's not what you's how you say it, Jacki", as a peer was telling me to stop speaking up in meetings because others are "put off" by my direct questions and attempt to hold the team accountable.  They followed with "sometimes you have to go along to get along" and "perhaps if you could just dumb it down a bit it wouldn't come across as so intimidating".....WTF?  And for a moment....I BELIEVED HER?!!?!??!?!  And in the dark moments on the drive home the dark shadow of self-doubt ranted and raved about how the problem really is me - not them. And that I need to try harder, change myself, be better, do it right the next time....and go along to get along.  

Today, my first read was this post....Thank you so very much for the slap across the face - EXACTLY what I needed.


@Jacki_Burke OMG, Jacki, you too?!?   SO been there in jobs and relationships, too. I found myself wondering "why did they hire/pick me if my intellect is intimidating?"
 Lessons learned, I guess. Happier now, and Erika has helped immeasurably.


Erika this couldn't have come at a better time. There is nothing more dangerous than figuring it out-- a mistake I've made a thousand times. I came face to face again this weekend with my crazy bitch, and I disappointed my friends, my family and my self immensely. It is incredible what a day will do in the hands of crazy bitch. Thank you for doing you. I'm in your corner.


Thank you for this Erika. I needed to hear this "And brave is never pretty. It’s never clean, processed, chopped, and packaged. It’s messy."


My lawyer describes me as a cross between Holden Caufiled and Wiley Coyote - $9 K-Mart blue jeans and .80 resale denim shirts - money can be better spent on inventory or fun stuff (only new under wear thank you) and ride the only metric motorcycle that get accolades (law of unintended consequences) from Harley riders - fuck appearances. 

to your point on planning - my corollary to Murphy's law is that I've always found him to be highly optimistic - As an entrepreneur, I'm happy to find the cash today to pay tomorrows bills without having to borrow. 

"Brave" understates the fortitude necessary to move forward in today's needlessly complex world - have and always will be an analog kind of guy


I've been on a journey searching for my good life since Jan 2, 2010. I wouldn't say I've found it yet, but I can say that the trip has certainly be the better life.

The thing that makes life enjoyable for me is knowing I'm on the right path. How do I know? Because if I weren't, I wouldn't be so darn happy.

Okay, now back to some writing...and possibly a breakfast sandwich with bacon.

Latest blog post: Let The Games Begin


Love this. Perfect for my week. Thank you.

Rachel Gilliam: Punch Presence
Rachel Gilliam: Punch Presence

I shared your blog with someone that I met just the other day -- she's trying to figure out her direction and wants answers. We met up this morning and all I could really do is tell her the path that I've taken, recommend people who have helped me. And then I sent her a link to this post. 

Really powerful. Thank you so much for sharing yourself with us. 


Damn! You always seem to say exactly what I am needing (or better put - what my soul seems to be craving) to hear. I spend so much of my time checking off the boxes in other people's lists and sometimes feel I don't even recognize myself anymore. 

Thanks for kicking me in the ass. 


I think I've finally found mine. For now, I'm having to do a bit of a balancing act, but it's starting to grow and burn brighter. I can't wait to see far I can take it.