There is a crack in everything

This Leonard Cohen quote was shared yesterday during the dharma talk at the Zen Buddhist Temple that we attend:

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

My mind was very attracted to these words yesterday morning. I googled them this morning and listened to the song Anthem of which these words are from.

As I read the words over and over letting my mind take them in I cannot help but giggle when I read “There is a crack in everything” because I think of the significant scar running from my pubic bone up through and past my belly button. “That’s a crack alright” is what my mind says, but it speaks not in a negative way or in a distasteful tone. The scar just is. It is the crack that has illuminated that I was sick and did not know it, that I was probably running too fast and doing too much, it showed me many many things to be so thankful for, and it has helped me reprioritize my life. The scar is still healing but there is a part of me that is looking forward to looking at it closer and getting to know this new body marking. It is interesting to me that I am more likely to show my belly to people now than before my surgery. I used to be very modest with my torso. Now there is a voice in my head that wants to show it off and say “check out my cool scar!” like I am 8 years old and scars are cool.

Also, when I read this quote I think of the Kinsugi, the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. This was imagery that I leaned on during my divorce and other significant hurdles in my life where I felt like things were falling apart. In my real life if I break a cup I use superglue but I love the idea of accentuating the seams of the broken pottery. The gold, silver or platinum bring attention to the fact that that bowl has been through something and is more precious and beautiful for it. I definitely feel blessed in that same way.

I am a broken bell that rings sweeter than it ever has and I shine bright through all my cracks, even on the dark days.

***

The Zen Buddhist Temple has played a strong supporting role in my life this past year in a multitude of unexpected ways. In January 2018 I had the thought to return to the Zen Temple after not going for almost 20 years with a few rare exceptions. I was not sure what my partner would think but I mentioned it and she wanted to come with me. It was vulnerable to explore and share this spiritual part of myself with another person. Luckily she liked it as much as I did. We rarely missed a Sunday and we looked forward to returning after we had missed.

After a few weeks of attending we also signed up for a meditation class. We both really enjoyed learning how to meditate and what came to us in those moments. At some point during meditation a feeling came to my partner that she had to marry me. I knew nothing of this at that time, but after six years it came to her that this is what she needed to do.

On her birthday March 10th she proposed and forty minutes later in a bar full of friends she asked me if I wanted to get married right then and there. A hush fell over the crowd and slightly shocked I replied “sure”. It was a great evening and I was so happy. By chance we also had a built in honeymoon since we scheduled the previous fall to take a trip to Barcelona that was leaving three days later. It was perfect.

Since we got married my wife was able to pick me up on her health insurance. I had been on medicaid since my divorce. My insurance through my wife started July 1st. I was in the ER on July 5th and having a major surgery July 7th. I do not know what medicaid would have or would not have covered but I know it would have been a financial burden. Also because we were married my wife could take advantage of FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) to help me at home. If we were not married and she could only use her vacation time to be home with me that would have been a much different experience.

I am glad that my wife chose slow down in meditation and pay attention to that voice in her head. We had no idea the significance of this chain of events as they were unfolding.

The first Sunday I returned to temple, two weeks after surgery, I had to sit in a chair instead of on a mat on the floor. My wife sat beside me. It was one of the first outings I took after the hospital. I was slow and feeling a bit awkward in my new body, hoping my ostomy bag would hold and hoping that my body made no loud audible noises (I cannot control gas with my stoma – it comes hen it comes and it makes noises if it wants to). After the services we would sometimes help with work tasks like moving furniture, gardening, and cleaning. On this day I could not help but Jenn did. After the work tasks were done we would be invited to join for lunch. It was never that many people, usually about 10 of us at lunch in the basement kitchen of the building. My one contribution I could do on that work day was to ring the lunch bell. When I was asked I felt excited to be useful and oddly nervous as I wanted to do it right. In retrospect now I can smile at myself because there is not really a way I could do that wrong but in the moment I felt very honored to be asked to to that task and I just wanted to do a good job at the one thing I could do. I took the old dented bell in my had and with a whip of my wrist, as I was shown, I walked the grounds announcing lunch. I walked slowly as that was my only speed. I walked with intention the stone path around the buildings. I noticed how the plants had grown so much in the weeks I had been tucked away at the hospital and at home. I noticed the warmth of the summer sun on my face. It was my favorite part of that day, ringing that old bell.

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

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