Mahatma Gandhi once said, “My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.” In the last few months, I have been trying to follow Gandhi’s example by presenting God with all of my humiliations, rejections, and shortcomings and to try to find the lesson or the value in them. The process of getting real and embracing my authentic self has been immensely painful but also freeing.
On Wednesday, I was invited to speak in Philadelphia to a group of professionals about what it’s like to live with treatment-resistant depression.
After I talked for a half hour about my journey, a woman asked me, “How do you get through the rough days?”
I wanted to place that question in the past tense and respond as a removed expert, rattling off a handful of solutions: lessen your stress, shorten your to-do list, rely on the help of others. However, inspired by reader comments on my recent blogs, I decided to speak from the heart. Tearing up, I said, “It’s so very, very hard. All you can really do is literally put one foot in front of another.”
I told them how difficult it is to live with a condition that continually stalks you and the thick stigma associated with that – condemnations that you are not trying hard enough or doing the right things to recover. I talked about the role of honest communication in moving past the stigma but voiced the real challenges of straight talk today in the workplace, at schools, even at home – the risk of alienation from the very people from whom you need support. I spoke about the need for hope, the one thing required for anyone with treatment-resistant depression to recover, and how to find that hope. I said that as severe as my symptoms get today, I remember that my track record for getting through the darker days is 100 percent.
I was humbled by their response. They appreciated my authenticity and didn’t want a Tony Robbins version, after all.
Since I was close to the Liberty Bell I made a quick field trip.
As I looked at the bell with a formidable crack, I remembered the lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There’s a crack, a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
Most of us would prefer a perfect bell, but the cracks are what make us human, able to connect with one another and recognize the beauty in the world. Cracks are the failures and humiliations that lead to our best work and offerings. They are the vulnerability that bonds us to our world and illuminates the darkness for others.
There is a valuable lesson in Kintsugi, the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold. By accentuating the fractures in a piece as opposed to covering them up, the pottery becomes even more valuable than its flawless original. The practice is related to the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, celebrating beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you,” said Rumi
It’s also the place that light shines forth to others.
Art by the talented Anya Getter.