I’ve always paid attention to details. I look to the purple flower petals on the sidewalk as I run across the grey pavement, watch the sun casts its shadow on only one part of the mountain or listen to the words a person uses to express his or her excitement. My gaze skims and scans the places I walk, whether it’s my home, a restaurant or an unexpected venue. This detail-oriented approach is often a gift – I’ve saved myself from backing into a car that pulls out without warning, handed a scarf to a stranger who drops this accessory without even noticing it fell to the ground, and crafted pages and pages based on one small, taken-for-granted detail. It’s a compelling way to live because it yields to noticing and an eager mindfulness to how intricate threads pieces together a whole. I love burying myself in the particulars, focused on the minuscule because it lends to an observant tilt to how I live my life.
This kind of paying attention is mindful, but also carries its consequences. Isn’t that how most things are? Integrating too much of one trait, even if it is with the best of intentions, doesn’t always yield to ideal outcomes. I will sometimes fixate on a single failed detail and with one swift motion dismiss the collective. This outlook carries its own burden and its birth likely comes from my need to embrace perfection.
In my twenties, I fixated over needless details that didn’t matter. Instead of focusing on the vast and the universal, my attention navigated toward what wasn’t in my control and instead of considering the whole, I jumped to emotional and reactive thinking. The cracks became fissures I couldn’t reconcile. Instead of listening to the lessons, I became enamored by trying to “fix” situations and events and relationships that were meant for brokenness.
It took a series of personal crises in my thirties and forties to understand Leonard Cohen’s penetrating lyrics,
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Those words for the past ten years have become a personal anthem. I’ve welcomed the imperfections in my life in a way I thought I never could. The idealist notions I carried in my youth, slipped away, even when I didn’t know it was happening. It’s what I deem a personal evolution – this ability to process in ways wholly foreign for half of my life.
Is it easy? Of course not. The cracks split me open, push me to question, coerce me to face hard and ugly truths. I’ve sat inside the small corner of my bathroom and cried alone. The tears pay homage to confronting the imperfections, letting them settle, and ultimately releasing and accepting what is, instead of what isn’t. If I never looked at the fractures, how could the light get in? There are millions of ways to bow my head to the light, as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, writer, runner and human. It’s isn’t always a perfect offering, but sometimes it’s the best I am capable of giving.
Image: Cracked by Jeff Kubina via Flickr.