I love this quote by Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light get in.” I believe in flaws. That is where real living exists. But more and more, we are reluctant to reveal the truth of how we feel. When a friend asks how you are doing, do you respond with “good or fine” or are you able to reveal that things are really not as perfect as they appear? In the days of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and technology, it appears everyone is leading this life with perfect careers, marriages, and children.
Once upon a time a family lived on a street. This family had a mom, dad, and two sisters. Nothing extraordinary. Just a family living their lives. Right? Wrong. This family had a secret. A big one. One they kept for 4 years. The dad was dying of cancer. He asked the mom and the two sisters and the older sister’s husband to keep it a secret from everyone. What did everyone else see? They saw the family that danced at weddings, attended dinners, and talked about how everything was fine. What did this family do behind-the-scenes? They spent hours in waiting rooms, hospitals, and pharmacies hoping and praying. “Perfect” life on the outside, but the real truth, were these 5 people were hostage to cancer island.
This tale was my family’s story for 4 years. I still have no idea why we had to keep this “perfect” image intact. But we weren’t about to betray a dying man’s wish.
What people forget is that one rarely gets a glimpse into the behind the scenes look at anyone’s life. A few times over the last six months, a couple of acquaintances suggested that much of my life appeared as if it was perfect. That I have it all together. My initial reaction to this particular comment was, “Really? You really think my life is perfect?” I lacked a response because I could not fathom anyone uttering these words. Did these people really believe that I lived in an indestructible utopia? This erroneous perception rattled in my head for days, wondering where they arrived at that conclusion.
Here is a revelation. I struggle. With little thing and big things. Some of which is revealed in this space. But there are battles that I am not inclined to confess. Those are too personal, painful, and require a special level of vulnerability that I am much too scared to talk about. But they exist. Because like you, your neighbor, your friend, your spouse, your children, I am flawed. There are cracks everywhere.
The perfect life is one that I am reluctant to adopt. It is too safe. There is a risk and a chance of evolving when we confront our flaws. A chance for growth. A chance for people to learn that they are not alone. A chance for progress. A chance to be human.
And ultimately a chance for the light to get in.
Ah, the perfection issue. And where is the beauty or the leaning in even the pretense of it?
Yes, the crack in everything. There’s a gorgeous book of poetry by that title I think. (Ostriker, maybe? Can’t recall.) The metaphor is a good one.
I remind myself of this often…we are all flawed and somehow that makes it easier.
“It’s okay to be a little broken.. Everybody’s broken in this life. It’s okay to feel a little broken. Everybody’s broken, you’re alright. It’s just life.” Bon Jovi
I was looking at hand woven rugs in a market in Mexico and said something about the little hole in one. The salesman said, “Oh. That’s just the window to let the light in!” I don’t know if he’d heard of Leonard Cohen, but I bought his rug!
Oh, the things that I could tell, but never will. The flaws, the wounds, a family that blew apart two times – fractured once in abandonment (that eventually had healing) and a second time, a fracture too horrible to put into words (and it will never be healed for parts of my family). Both times, everyone we knew was aware of what happened – the second time was very public (even strangers knew). Thankfully, I no longer lived near my family and my husband and my best friend were there to help me through the worst. But, I don’t let anyone else see those flaws, those cracks in my armor. I think you have to completely trust someone to be that vulnerable.
Cancer? I understand what you went through, but I was a generation removed; and I don’t think it was for the reason of seeming perfect before the watching world. My grandmother’s cancer was in remission for many years, until my grandfather denied its existence (even though she had a radical mastectomy and lymph nodes removed). When the cancer returned and had metastasized throughout her body, he instructed the entire family to never speak of it – not even to my grandmother. He thought he could hide it from her. He was always by her side, and I’ll never know if she willingly went along with his charade, so it would be less painful for him, or if she too wanted to deny its presence. I think they were trying to protect each other from the truth. The rest of us remained silent because they did.
One of the things that drew me to your blog was your willingness to share your life, your pain and your joy, so openly. It lets the rest of us who are flawed know we are not alone.
P.S. I love Leonard Cohen.
Argh, a rare piece of honesty! It’s true that people are far too eager to show the good and less of the ‘bad’ aspects of their life… Unfortunately they are both parts of life nonetheless. I have a similar tale of the family secret but in my experience it just hindered people’s opportunities to say goodbye.
I love that quote. Yes, perfection is a myth. In reality it is the flaws within us that make us both individual and beautiful.
Perfection is overrated, being flawed is human and beautiful.
This was such a great reminder for me. Because while I complain about people putting all their drama on Facebook, I also complain that someone else’s life seems perfect while we are struggling.
Important words, Rudri. Thank you for your honesty.
I can relate to the cancer privacy and I wonder if it is cultural. My Asian family (both sides) believe that disease and illness are shameful. I don’t know if my mother even told her own sister that she had had cancer…both my parents have had it and we were given specific instruction not to tell a soul.
I was always shamed by my mother because she found me “too open.” I still feel self conscious about posting on Facebook or blogging, and I often suffer from pangs of doubt whenever I write too personally. Then I’ll read someone else’s blog and it is very often the most personal and honest posts that touch me the most deeply. There is almost a sense of gratitude, in fact, that I feel when someone comes forward to share something difficult. It does make me feel less alone. I try to tell myself this as I go back and forth (still, all these years later!) in my own blog writing.
I am grateful that now at my age I’ve found friends who have given up the idea of putting on a facade. Through them I’ve learned that my own marriage squabbles or struggles with my child are common and normal. But I still have a good friend of 20+ years who cannot get past the surface…she makes me wonder if she has ever had a fight with her husband. I never believe that anyone has it all down perfectly – it’s just a matter of what they are willing to show.