Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen
We eagerly opened the box filled with neatly-wrapped presents that arrived on Christmas Eve. It was from Chris, our son, and his girlfriend, Diana, who were celebrating the holidays in Salt Lake City where they live. The two of them, when they are not at the University finishing up their graduate degrees, love to create pottery, and, I think, as we squeezed and fondled each precious gift, we all secretly were hoping for something handmade by our artisan kin. And, sure enough, the next morning, when we unwrapped the glorious handiwork of Chris and Diana, we were thrilled: a porcelain bowl with a bird in flight carved on the inside with Diana’s own hands, another bowl with an ocean-wavy rim created by Chris, two hefty mugs for Chris’ brother, Pete and sister-in-law, Shel, and, in the final package, a platter and dip tray in the same soft glaze as Chris’s bowl. Except the platter didn’t look like a platter. It was broken into puzzle-like pieces, too many pieces for even Chris’s dentist dad, who is really really good at fixing things, to glue back together. I admit that I had a moment of disappointment, a moment of envisioning what this creation had looked like before, and how perfect it would have been at Joy Center gatherings. And then I examined it more closely. It had broken into something beautiful and unexpected and unique, a curvy shape around the intact bowl at its center. And it became the center, this broken piece of pottery; it became the centerpiece of our Christmas table and I loved it even more because it was broken. And it still sits on the table, with a lily blooming in its bowl and fronds of cedar resting on its jagged rim.
In the soft candlelight moments of yoga, as we sink inward and connect with something true at our center, it’s easy to hear the words, that we are enough, not just enough, but magnificent, and, that our cracks and quirks give us character and brilliance, that we don’t have to prove, or improve anything. But, in the bright light of day, sometimes we forget that our rough edges don’t need to be polished. Every year, for thirty years, my husband, Cam, has taken it upon himself to be in charge of cooking the Christmas turkey. And every year, for thirty years, he begins the day with a sense of optimism. And every year, for thirty years, as we hover around the kitchen waiting, he lifts the steaming bird from the oven, and, every year, it is still pink and not-quite-done, and our meal is postponed. Cam’s a great cook, takes pride in showing off his skill, and he has tried everything. People come out of the woodwork to give him tips: put it in a turkey bag, wrap it in bacon, buy a better thermometer, cook it at a high temperature, cook it at a low temperature, buy a fresh turkey, thaw a frozen one for days and days and days . . . he tries them all.
And last year, when the turkey had smelled so good and looked so promising and had been too rare for safe human consumption, he lost it. He called himself worthless, put the turkey back in the oven, went out to the garage for five minutes to pull himself together, and, two days later, at a Joy Center open mic night, shared his turkey story. And his story began to take on an exaggerated shape as he sensed the audience was with him, as he heard our laughter and commiseration. It seemed as though he was having fun. It seemed as though he was trying not to laugh. It seemed as though he was realizing that this was a funny story, that he wasn’t worthless after all. And his cathartic turkey confession must have worked. Because, this year, once again, with optimism high – he had consulted his mother who always cooks a perfect turkey – Cam placed the organic locally-raised turkey in the oven, and carefully, on paper, calculated when it should be done, and, once again, when he hauled it out of the oven at the appointed hour, as usual, the pink juice leaked from its center. I might have heard him mutter a swear word. I might have heard a sigh of disgust. But, then, he, my transformed husband, just placed that turkey back in the oven, and, with no drama at all, welcomed our guests, and an hour later, proudly professed that this was the best turkey he had ever tasted!
What if, in 2012, we forget the perfect offering? What if this year we relax our shoulders and let the light shine through our cracks? What if this year we crack ourselves up with our idiosyncrasies and quirks? What if we allow our hearts to break wide open so we can experience more love and joy than we thought possible? What if we decide that this is the year that we will make a choice to feel good right now, not waiting for the illusion of some future perfection? So what if our edges are rough? So what if the turkey needs to cook a little longer? So what?!? Happy New Year! And know that you are always welcome at Joy Center!