“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

21 Nov

WRITEOUS CHICKS NEWSLETTER – November 2009 

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” -Leonard Cohen

I recently saw an advertisement for a talk about “having it all” given by a very together-looking woman who, well, looked like she had it all, and it made me upset/angry.  More specifically, the idea that it’s possible to have it all, and that this is an ideal to which we should aspire, made me upset/angry.  Who are these people who “have it all” and how do they do it?  Having it all, and what this implies – having it all together, and being all together – is a sheer impossibility, and to set this up as a standard worth striving for just perpetuates feelings of inadequacy and never measuring up.  And it leaves those of us who don’t feel like we have it/are all together, feeling somehow imperfect, flawed, cracked and falling apart, and meanwhile, exhausting ourselves trying to piece it all together.

We are conditioned to hide our struggles and the parts of ourselves that we think are flawed.  We then all do this, and very rarely do people share what is broken and cracked in ourselves.  Then we look at everybody else’s so together outsides, and compare it to our hidden falling apart insides, and feel isolated and alone, like we are the only one who feels these things, who struggles, who has these cracked and jagged places, where everyone else looks so smoothed over and polished.

But.  No one has it all.  Even people who have it all, don’t really have it all. 

This past Wednesday, I watched Robin Roberts’ interview with Janet Jackson on ABC, which I loved for many reasons.  Robin was an outstanding interviewer, and was compassionate, respectful, and thoughtful, and not at all invasive in her questions.  And Janet Jackson is inspiring in many ways, including her talent, singing, dancing, and creativity and creative process.  But the thing that inspired me the most was how open and honest she was about her imperfections and struggles, and how much courage it takes to do this in a world that does not at all encourage openness, vulnerability, and anything less than perfect.

Some things Janet Jackson said that resonated with me as being so deeply human and relatable were:

– “And you have to forgive me…I have this thing where I tend to smile when things kinda get a little painful.  I guess that’s just my protective shield.”

I totally do this.  Sometimes I can be so upset or hurt or angry or disappointed, and I will just smile and say, “Fine, I’m fine, everything’s fine, it’s all FINE!” 🙂  We can be conditioned to just not feel right about feeling the way we feel, to the point that if any difficult or uncomfortable or painful feelings come up, we make them wrong and bad, stuff them down, and smile a little wider.  And we can want to take care of other people’s feelings, and not make them feel bad by laying our heavy sh*t on them, so we just keep it all inside.  And smile wider still.

– “…not that long ago I started to like my smile, I didn’t used to like my smile.”

WHAT?!  Janet Jackson is known for her gorgeous trademark smile.  The idea that she doesn’t completely love it, that she ever didn’t even like it, is incomprehensible.  But we can all be so hard on ourselves and not appreciate, and so often not even see, our most radiant qualities and our own inner and outer beauty.  And these things can be so obvious to everyone else, and yet, we remain completely oblivious to them, or worse, dislike, or even hate them.

– “I had some depression in me going on, jumping off there pretty seriously.  Just things that I suppressed, suddenly they weren’t going away when I pushed them away like they did in the past.”

I have had many bouts of severe depression.  And in our society, this is still something that is really taboo to talk about.  But depression is isolating enough as it is, and people not talking about it makes it even more isolating, and intensifies the feeling, the belief, that you are the only one going through this.  So every time someone openly talks about having depression or going through a depression, from Janet Jackson on TV to Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat Pray Love” to your best friend or cousin or neighbor in conversation, it contributes to lifting some of the aloneness that people who struggle with depression feel, and it lets some light in through the cracks, and illuminates the darkness.

In the interview, songwriter and producer Jimmy Jam said about Janet, “She had everything:  success, financial wealth, hit records, but you know, it was that thought that what if you have everything, and basically feel like nothing?”

When people who appear to have it all admit that they don’t, it helps to shatter the myth that having it all is at all possible, and that we should spend our valuable time and energy striving for this unrealistic, impossible ideal, even if it comes at tremendous cost, detriment, and often exhaustion to ourselves.  So instead, perhaps we can release at least some of the striving, and reallocate at least some of the time and energy we spend chasing after outer symbols of achievement, signs of “having it all,” to cultivating nurturing qualities within ourselves, like happiness, compassion, connection, peacefulness, serenity, calm.  And contentedness.  With exactly where and who we are, and what we have, in this moment now.  Cracks and all.  There is nothing inherently wrong or bad with accomplishment, it just becomes painful, and an exhausting, unfulfilling, and never-ending pursuit when you try to use your achievements to bring you lasting happiness or peace, or to prove your worthiness, to others, and to yourself.

And, as in Janet Jackson’s courageous example, having it all on the outside, doesn’t guarantee anything about how you feel on the inside.  As human beings, we all struggle, at some time, in some way.  We can use these struggles to isolate ourselves even further, or, through openly sharing and talking and writing about them in environments and ways that feel safe to do so, we can use them to connect with each other even more.

And here’s the irony.  We feel like people will accept us more, and like us better, if we appear to be all together and perfect on the outside, and that people will dislike us and reject us if we share our flaws and struggles with them.  But it makes me like people more, and feel closer to them, when they share their flaws and struggles with me.  I feel distant from, and uncomfortable around, and sometimes flat out just don’t like, people who always seem so together and perfect.  First of all, I can’t relate to being perfect and completely together (because, in part, I have my own flaws and struggles, and also, because being perfect doesn’t exist, and having everything all together all the time is impossible).  And secondly, when someone presents themselves this way, I don’t feel safe to share my struggles, or comfortable to really be myself, fearing on some level that this person would look down on me for being less-than-perfect.

But.  When someone opens up and admits to and shares their flaws and struggles, I feel a connection and an understanding, and safe to do the same.  I feel an internal sigh of relief-ness – this person is like me, and human, and flawed.  I can let down my guard and be myself with them.  And true closeness and intimacy with others grows from sharing all of ourselves – the good and the bad, the light and the dark, our strengths and our weaknesses.  And also ironically, sharing our weaknesses takes so much courage, and strength.

So instead of exhausting yourself trying to tape over and patch up and Krazy Glue your cracks, just let them be, and let them show, to yourself, to each other, and to the world.  When you do, you let the light shine in through all the places where you are broken, flawed, imperfect, and cracked.  And when you do, you also let your own light shine out through those very same cracks, and the warmth of this light gives others permission to shine the perfect-just-as-it-is light of their imperfections, too.

Shine on!

Lots of love,

Jen xoxoxo

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam

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One Response to ““There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.””

  1. C... January 8, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    Great post. I appreciate reading this because I sometimes feel that everyone blogs about how perfect their lives are and how they are travelling, having kids, and their lives are honky dory. I like reading about all that but sometimes like you said you feel like meeting genuine people that don’t want to be envied just share of their experiences and lives openly without fronting about what they have and how much they will have.

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