Seeing the light

Winter showed up with, as they say (somewhere), a big can of whoop-ass one evening last week: lots of snow, freezing rain, icy roads, crappy visibility. I looked at the window, and I looked at the forecast, and I thought to myself, I know what this means:


When the weather is winter shite, and my friend Karen is in town and doesn’t want to (and shouldn’t) face the roads leading back to her idyllic little house in the country, where all her best big and little guys are tucked up safe, she tends to crash here, and this makes me happy.

Sure enough, the text arrived:



And then Karen arrived up a little while later, with takeout Thai and wine and a million little projects, and we settled in for the evening (my little and not-as-little guys tucked up safe at their other house), in the living room, the freezing rain going sideways against the house. And every so often I would look up from our conversation and the projects to the living room ceiling.

The living room ceiling that remained mercifully, miraculously, dry throughout the storm. Sideways rain and all. I kept glancing at the ceiling, noticing the absence of leaking, revelling in that absence. If I could have wrapped myself in my dry, repaired, ceiling like it was a onesie, I would have, nudging its dry, repaired warmth between my toes, sipping a cup of hot cocoa. Maybe with some Bailey’s in it for extra happiness. It was that good. It was so good that I wrote a little status update about it on Facebook:


It garnered a reasonable number of likes, and a few comments, some of which were from people — people I know and like and respect — whose roofs were leaking in the storm.

Reading about them, I felt a twinge of surprise: other people, in other houses — their roofs leak? They, too, wake up to sagging plaster and not-so-mysterious puddles on the floor, feel the despair and supreme annoyance at not having every single thing entirely sewn up and dealt with the way responsible adults are supposed to and if you don’t then something is wrong and certainly shameful? Because the leaky roof is somehow, somewhere, subliminally, the sign of some sort of intellectual and/or moral weakness, certainly at the very least grand irresponsibility?

Yes, yes, I know: lighten up, Goldberg.

But seriously. I hadn’t really realized the extent to which I’d projected all kinds of shame and outsized meaning onto what, on the face of it, was a sort of fairly simple home repair. The kind that ordinary people with houses deal with all the time. (And yes, given the state of world affairs, I am in no small way aware of just how magical and privileged it is to be an "ordinary" person living in an "ordinary" house.) I hadn’t realized the extent to which I’d assumed that everybody else had it all together, all the time. Even with Facebook to tell me otherwise. It wasn’t, clearly, a particularly conscious assumption, or even remotely logical — I mean, there are plumbers and roofers and Home Depot out there for a reason, and the reason can’t be just me. I’m not that fucked up. It was just something I noticed once the weight of the thing was gone.

But it makes me wonder just how many more pounds of stress and shame and comparison I carry around unconsciously. It makes me wonder what else I could put down, let go. It makes me wonder how I could be kinder to myself, more realistic in my expectations for what constitutes responsible adulthood, goodness, capability. Because, you know, I’m guessing there are a few areas where that might be a good thing to explore. The (former) leak in my roof? Just a leak. We all have them. It’s like that Leonard Cohen line: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”