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The crack that lets the light in

Saturday, November 6, 2010 by Marianne Elliott

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This is the second in a short series of lessons I’ve learned while living lately…

(the title to this one comes with loving thanks to Mr Leonard Cohen, who sang me to the moon and back when I saw him live in concert this week)

Messing up is sometimes the crack the lets the light in

Like most people, I am much kinder, clearer and much more coherent when I am not exhausted. For this and several other reasons, my boyfriend and I have an agreement that we won’t have difficult conversations late at night, in bed, when we both need to sleep.

Nonetheless, sometimes we break our own, imminently sensible, agreement. This Sunday was one of those times. I won’t go into the details. It was no better or worse than the conversations arguments you’ve also had at 1am on a Monday morning. In this we are more alike than we are different. Of that much I’m fairly sure.

On Monday morning I woke at 5am, after four hours sleep, with that very particular kind of emotional hangover that comes from falling asleep exhausted by your own inability to find perspective. I awoke with an apology on my lips but had to wait a very long hour before the deserving party was awake to receive it.

In the cool light of morning I finally found the words to simply ask for what I needed. No drama. No story. No explanation needed.

I went out into my day regretting the night before. Surely I can do better than this by now, I thought.

And still, I tried to find a little compassion for my late night frailty. I’m flawed, after all, in the most ordinary ways.

Sure I messed up, but I’m in, I reminded myself, good company. Some of the best people I know have messed up, late at night or in the wee small hours of the morning. Some of them have even messed up in the middle of the day, in plain daylight and full sight of those who admire them.

And then, as I reconciled myself to my own particularly domestic form of mess up, something big shifts. A crack opens in a dark corner of my life and a little light gets in. It is good. It is welcome. It is the kind of shift, I realise, that I hope to get from ‘getting it right’, not from ‘messing up’.

Could the same result have come from a careful, compassionate, clear conversation in the sensible light of day? Of course it could have.

And yet. This particular crack in the (flimsy) facade of my ‘got-it-togetherness’ may very well have provided just the right amount of space, for just the right amount of light, at just the right moment.

Maybe messing up isn’t such a bad thing after all.


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8 Responses to "The crack that lets the light in"

  1. shāna says:

    gosh marianne, i am so touched by your story & your willingness to bare it. brought tears to my eyes. “…emotional hangover that comes from falling asleep exhausted by your own inability to find perspective.” how pointed that is, because in the end that is what throws us (me) off course. it’s not the argument, the event, the person. it’s our ability (or not) to accept, negotiate, come to terms with what is. thank you.
    kindly from shāna

  2. Emily Perry says:

    yes, such great insight… a lovingkindness towards ourselves is the greatest gift. thank you for the beautiful reminder! e

  3. you know i am all about any kind of passage we recognize and pass through toward more freedom. the doorways aren’t always pretty, but they open.

  4. Andi says:

    Oh man, exhaustion can really cloud ones thinking…

  5. Mary Donnery says:

    This post was perfect timing as I’m presently healing from my one of my own ’emotional hangovers’. It’s good to be reminded that as humans we will ‘mess up’ and that it’s all part of the growing process.
    Thank you Marianne for your thoughtful and honest writing…peace:)

  6. swirly says:

    Trust me, my friend, you have plenty of company. 🙂 I’m trying to say things out loud (particularly feelings I might not be especially proud of but still need to express) and stay in a place of observation through it all. It is amazing how different it all feels when I focus on observing rather than judging.

  7. Bobbi French says:

    Oh my, oh my. How relieved I am to read this lovely post. I have been in this situation so many times that I wonder if I have lost the ability to learn! The morning shame is difficult to bear for sure but the only source of comfort is that everyone, and I mean everyone, has experienced it for one reason or another.

    Messing up is what we do. It’s what allows for growth and repair. It’s how we recognize our humanity.

    Thanks so much for making me smile tonight…


  8. Jasmine Lamb says:

    I’m moved by the tenderness, not only in your piece Marianne, but also in all the comments. I love what Bobbi says, “Messing up is what we do. It’s what allows for growth and repair. It’s how we recognize our humanity.”

    My life has opened up, cracked open, by being able to embrace the part of me that doesn’t behave how I think she should, but there she is none-the-less, needing compassion and love like everything else.

    My mother said the other day, “If you don’t mess up at least once a day, you may not really be living.”

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