“Life is messy, Andrea.” That’s what my mom said to me a few weeks ago when we were chatting about all the things going on in the world. And, she’s right. We all have messy lives. Do we not? And when you think about it, why is life messy?

Reflect on the past year for you. Was it messy? If so, why, and in what way? For me, one of the obvious reasons life was messy was my dad’s sudden diagnosis of brain cancer and death six months later. His illness and passing created messiness in the family about needs, wants and expectations. It was also messy because it was confusing – how can this be happening? Why him? He was such a kind, gentle soul.

Another obvious mess last year was COVID and all of the barriers and uncertainty it created – huge business clients dropped my marketing services; my gym closed and I had to shift my workout routine to home; I couldn’t see friends and family in-person and enjoy dining out; we could no longer depend on what our income would be month-to-month.

And then add the civil unrest and political tension to 2020, and life definitely seems messy!

I always say managing expectations is a huge piece to maintaining happiness and daily balance. Different or uncommunicated expectations among spouses, family, friends or co-workers can create unrest, frustration and sometimes resentment. Expectations involve feelings and deep down core issues like self-worth and acceptance by others, which can make it messy to express and advocate for yourself.

If you think about it, managing and communicating expectations can go a long way in helping to clean up our messy lives. But it can be hard. It requires taking the time to talk with someone. It requires vulnerability about your feelings and point of view. It requires listening to the other person and reflecting on their viewpoint.

What I have often found about the messiness of life is that as humans, we often want the same things deep down – love and acceptance. But we usually have different ways of communicating it, different means of accepting and giving it, and different reasons to reject it. We think differently, we see things differently, we process differently, all culprits for muddying up the clear waters of our expectations. And, our fear is the messiest of all, with the power of colluding our judgement at every turn.

So, what’s the moral of the story in all of this mess? I think it’s that we need to identify and communicate expectations with each other, as well as recognize that everyone has different perceptions and opinions. What’s important and has value to one person may not be the same to someone else. Try to celebrate our differences and see through the mucky mess.