That's How the Light Gets In - Kimberly Thompson

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

My husband and I arrived home last night, after five wonderful days of family time. We rented a home in a central location and family members came and went throughout the Thanksgiving holiday. Everyone made an appearance. The weather was perfect, sunny and in the 70s the entire time. There was a big Thanksgiving meal with lots of leftovers. We were about two blocks off of an award-winning small town square that offered lots of shopping and a stellar coffee shop. The last night, we played board games and charades.

Why then did I have such a hard time sitting down and relaxing into the bustle around me? With eleven people for Thanksgiving dinner, and people coming and going all weekend, it’s just a given that there were always dishes to be done, laundry to be washed, counters to be wiped and floors to be swept. I fell exhausted into bed every night and jumpstarted myself every morning with strong coffee. I honestly do not know what I thought would happen if I let the bed stay unmade and the bathroom counter stay cluttered.

I enjoyed every minute of both the mess-making and the constant management I did to keep it under control. I might have made it home in better shape, though, if I could melt a little better into the glorious chaos that is a large family. My need for order is my Achilles heel, the stubborn drive that keeps me up when my body and brain are pleading for rest. On the way home I reflected on this.

I have come to respect what the Japanese call wabi-sabi, which has been defined as “the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all” (Lawrence, 2001). Whether it’s my own body, or an antique piece of pottery, or the shabby chic décor of my psychotherapy office, there is beauty in imperfection. I prefer the jumbled beauty of a cottage garden over clipped hedges and rows of neat borders. If it’s real and alive with love, then it’s beautiful.

If I am the Crusader of Anti-Perfectionism, shouldn’t I be able to leave crumbs on the table and toys on the rug? I would like to. I pray that I don’t make anybody (especially the daughters-in-law) feel guilty or compelled to clean with me. My drive to create order out of chaos is, in itself, the imperfection that I must make peace with. I have faults; I have flaws; I exhaust myself trying to (metaphorically) nail Jello to a wall.

Yes, I’ve located the imperfection – it’s not out there, it’s inside me. And I can handle that. Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.

Lawrence, R. (2001). Wabi-sabi: The art of imperfection. The Utne Reader, 107, 48-50.