messy messy joy joy

Dearest Clara and Nutcracker,

In just a few hours our annual party begins. And when our guests arrive they’ll marvel at the sight. (Over the past nine years we’ve learned how to throw a seriously great party).

But what they won’t see is what is happening right now—as we are prepping and struggling and stumbling.

They will see the joy, but not the mess.

They will see only half of what is true. Like looking with only one eye open, they will not have depth perception. They will not perceive the effort, the sweat. They will not see the moments when we worried we couldn’t pull it off, when things were half done and seemed impossible to do.

Later in the night our guests will see it all. While the party begins beautifully, there comes the time when the nutcracker is broken. A mess that changes everything. Without it? The night would quickly end. Without the mess there would be no dream, no second act.

Messiness isn’t a mistake. It is the space for the creation of joy. So often we worry that the mess makes a moment less. That the mess means we are less. The opposite is true. It is the messy that makes life more. Nothing is just joy.

The full story is that joy and messiness are necessary companions.

So look for the moments of messy in your life—a role you didn’t wish for, a partner you don’t want, an injury that sets you back. Trust in them. Know that they point the way to great joy.

Because the joy will be there. It’s waiting for you. It’s real. It isn’t just in dreams.


With all my love,

Mama Stahlbaum

Love this Nutcracker Love Note? You can pin it.

This is the ninth year I have performed in The Nutcracker. It is my eighth year as Clara’s mother, the seventh time I have written a letter to the dancers  Here are the links to the letters for the past six years: stage fright, the balance pointe, home for the holidays, blizzards of truth, life in ¾ time, in a nutshell.



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