Where The Light Meets The Dark: Embracing Real Human Moments
Society is suffering from a widespread amnesia, one that’s caused us all to forget the beauty that comes with imperfection and the genius that exists in a first draft. Edited versions of ourselves are rolling in like tidal waves, crashing over the calm and quiet waters that are our humanity. The brightest moments, plucked and placed on highlight reels, outshine our most vulnerable selves. Performance anxiety and impostor syndrome are taking out the masses, killing off every drop of authenticity we have left. We censor and filter and hide; we care more about keeping up appearances than figuring out how to live with ourselves and how to fall in love with it.
Albert Einstein spoke of this very thing, this idea that we think we are separate from one another and are hiding in this nonexistent prison inside ourselves. Rumi talked about walking around hiding our secrets when it’s the same one, the things we all know but don’t want to say out loud. We are so afraid of putting something out there that will be a stain on our existence, when really everyone is just a walking pile of dirty laundry. Mary Oliver said it, too, we don’t have to be good; we are the light and dark, and the sooner we all accept that the sooner we can stop wasting our precious time. This can only happen in the in-between, where night and day share a home.
Half-lit rooms are where the good unspeakables happen, where the unforgettables are born. They’re warm and inviting and glowing with a sense of communion; rooms where there are seas of strangers who you swear you’ve met before. Rooms where you’re with friends you’ve known forever but somehow they feel brand new. The spot where the shadow and the sun nod to one another and meet halfway to rest. Where there is no reason to be afraid because everything is as it should be, or if it isn’t it will be soon. The air is made of velvet — not cheap polyester. Coffee stains and little spills are welcomed and encouraged. There’s no space for small talk — our sins make it standing room only and we like it that way. Shoulder to shoulder with everybody’s open secrets buzzing above our heads, we tell the truth when they ask “how are you?” inside half-lit rooms.
Half-lit rooms aren’t designed with fluorescent lights. They don’t have magnifying glasses on their bookshelves. They aren’t fitted with cold steel chairs that are too close together. In half-lit rooms, you’ll never strain to see, your words won’t be examined too closely, and you can stretch your legs and cozy up to your mistakes. There’s enough electricity to keep the conversation going, and where bits of silence are just a quieter kind of knowing. Time moves just the way we like it and we are never too late nor way too early. No one is going anywhere anytime soon.
Half-lit rooms are the restaurants where girlfriends become fiancés and coworkers become confidants. We speak softly and sincerely to the ones across the table while people we’ll never see again are swirling their spaghetti and doing the same. Our first bite of our favorite food, where we realize we are allergic to shellfish, where a chance visit will become your “spot”. They’re the half-lit rooms where we celebrate momentous occasions and where we go to fill the void of something lost too soon. A destination where we suddenly remember we’re merely mortal, we look around and realize no one else knows what’s going on either. There’s couples having fights and parents scolding toddlers, there’s sisters laughing and knocking over drinks and employees tripping over tables to clean up the mess. These things are okay in half-lit rooms, these things happen and we just let them be.
Half-lit rooms are the bedrooms where you encounter the holy wink of time before your mouth meets another you’ve been wanting to know. When the hands you’ve admired and wondered where they’ve been, they nudge your cheek on the way to tangle in your knotty hair. It’s like his fingers are made of something not of this earth and they were turning you into whatever that was, too. The trickle of enchantment that’s the closest thing you’ve gotten to seeing magic up close. The only thing that’s ever shut you up and made you close your eyes without peaking. That holy wink you clutch onto and memorize so you can recall it whenever you’d like—that only happens in half-lit rooms.
Half-lit rooms are the kitchens where you can tell the truth, even to the people who you’ve only shown your good side to — the side you use in pictures and the side you share on first dates. You’re snug inside the common knowledge that this isn’t going anywhere, that it’s all off-the-record. You tell about the times you fibbed and when you meant to call. You say sorry and you mean it and ask them to forgive you. You find the courage to ask the questions that have been burning inside your throat. The dishwater is overflowing and the tea kettle is whistling but no one cares because you’re crying happy tears. Everything seems like it’s understood and no topic is off the table. Fuzzy spaces with fuzzy feelings, those can only exist inside half-lit rooms.
In half-lit rooms you’re drunk on honesty and you’ve come to terms with the fact that you haven’t been pure since puberty. You speak of things you want to do using words that are unrehearsed; like folk music, the things you say sound good bouncing off the walls and the clumsiness is what makes it real. Where it’s too dark to know who said what but light enough to see someone whispering “me too.” You say you’ll quit your day job and write a book. You vow to abandon your notions on love and start from scratch. You make promises to yourself and to others that you’ll really keep when you’re in half-lit rooms.
In half-lit rooms the priest removes the screen of the confessional, pokes his head through the window and says “You’re only human, God will get over it.” The lawyer decides he won’t defend something he doesn’t believe in just to make a buck, just for one more headline to keep him going. The salesman tells you the product is shitty and where to get a better one. The nurse kisses the dying man’s cheek and gives him one more dose against the doctor’s orders. There aren’t absolutes or right ways or wrong ways. People become human, the lines become blurred, only in half-lit rooms.
The half-lit rooms inside of us are where we belong. Existing in this in between, where primitive is proper, where the golden mean was born. Here we can see clearly, here we know that everything else is just noise. Bright lights are blinding and they sterilize the surface, they burn through the banter and leave only what’s deemed acceptable; we separate from one another, and separate from ourselves. In the half-lit room inside of us, we see what we are really made of and embrace the clutter we usually would hide from guests. We are built with windows to let the sun in but still have hiding spaces that never see the light of day. Our half-lit rooms hold both the light and dark.
The truth, the simultaneously heartbreaking and comforting truth, is that no one has ever outrun the darkness, they’ve only hidden from it. What wild abandon is waiting for us there? What creatures can we meet inside of ourselves? What lessons lurk there that we’re waiting to learn? We need the thick, unknown of night as much as we need the bright, blank page of day. We don’t need to let the darkness to swallow us whole, we don’t need to succumb to the shadow and never know what it is like to be seen. That’s the charm of the half-lit room. It is here where we fully accept things as they come and wholly acknowledge when they’re gone for good. We allow the animal of ourselves to shake hands with the person we are on paper. We embrace rough cuts and fumbles, mock-ups and mulligans. Things that float in between are made of mouth-watering stuff. Emotions without names, ideas without definitions, conversations with no real conclusion. These are the snapshots of being human, the footage that falls to the cutting room floor. People become human, the lines become blurred, only in half-lit rooms.
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