Illustration: Luciano Lozano/ Getty Images

1. Life Cracks Open: When your point of irritation explodes into a Roman candle of illumination.

For example, you're so fed up with your husband buying sweet pickles (not dill! never dill!), that you begin to shout out across the kitchen, "You know I hate sugary condiments!," only to stop and blurt out instead—without any foreknowledge—"I feel like you never even consider what I want!" And what started out as a moment of anger, turns into total calm. You know what you're feeling. Now, sit down with the person you love and figure out what to do about it.

2. Life Cracks Open: When you run the last stride you're capable of...and you keep going.

Because of course you're capable of more, be it measured in miles, little electronic bars on the elliptical or the amount of heady bliss you get from creating a new goalpost for yourself.

3. Life Cracks Open: When you haven't talked to someone for a year and it feels like you just talked to her yesterday.

But not in the wonderful, we're-still-so-close way. It feels like yesterday because you realize how little your life has changed during this time period. In other words: You are where you were. What is the one thing you can do—quit your job, fall in love, give up double burritos, take up meditation, go to Minnesota to hear the wild wolves howl, finally—what would make you feel as if you'd squeezed an entire decade out of 365 days?

4. Life Cracks Open: When you realize it's more effective to stop decorating the air.

Because what you're really doing by telling your boss how much you admire the souvenir mug, or pointing out the lack of cereal on your husband's grocery list, is adding curlicues and filigree to the surrounding oxygen. You want to ask her for a raise, or you want to explain to him how much it upset you when he didn't introduce you to his smoking-hot "pal" from college. And so, you dive in—and do it experiencing, for the first time, the awesome power of being straightforward. Note: The odd thing about this revelation is that the other person, whoever it is, may have the same minihit of nirvana at the same time as you; because fluff, however lovely, is still fluff. She or he is waiting for you to get to your point—and the more quickly you do, the more seriously that point—and you—will be taken.

5. Life Cracks Open: When you understand the simple-yet-messed-up logic for some really obvious thing.

In other words, you suddenly, and for no apparent reason, look at a woman's dress and see how the neckline dips into a heart shape—and you say, "Oh, that's why they call it a sweetheart neckline." Nothing massive is about to change in your day-to-day. But you do experience a poof of useless pleasure in your brain. (Because, duh, it's not like somebody would invent a neckline that only sweethearts could wear, right? That would be some thought you had in the sixth grade, when another girl came to school wearing one and you sat in the corner, watching every boy fall on his face as she walked by and you decided, very quietly, that the universe had invented a shirt for people like her; people who were so, so, so not you).

Next: How plain old sea salt can change you

6. Life Cracks Open: When you let the other person decide...

Anything at all. But especially: the restaurant, the movie, the dance club, the size of the Christmas tree, the brand of the new car, the length of the sofa, the time of the brunch and which overpriced-but-requisite package of school pictures to buy.

7. Life Cracks Open: When you sprinkle salt flowers on your chicken.

You don't have time to make bread (even in a bread machine); and, quite frankly, you're getting a little irritated with all the online women out there that have the energy to make their own jam and, God help you, yogurt. And yet, one Sunday night, on the advice of the shelf stocker at the grocery story, you sprinkle fleur-de-sel (translated: flower of salt, or just plain old French sea salt) on your boneless, skinless, grilled chicken breast. Suddenly, a light descends on your dinner—a golden light hitherto unseen, save in patches of various still-life masterpieces in museums—and that chicken turns crunchy, delectable, transcendent. Which results in the belief that neither life nor last-minute dinners ever, ever have to be boring.

8. Life Cracks Open: When you undergo a "mirror" epiphany.

Even at 42.7 years, it happens. Someone points out something amazing about you that (1) You never realized was amazing (for example, you are told, "You never interrupt my stories with a, 'That's okay'"; or, "You're the only person that remembers I majored in performance video in college"); and, (2) you never realized was something you even did, because it just came naturally, no trying to be a good friend or better person involved. Link this moment to another moment in the past when you thought, "I'm not amazing enough." Enjoy the sensation of the latter feeling suddenly shriveling into the scrap of nonsense that it always was.

9. Life Cracks Open: When you hear the story of your grandparents first date for the first time in your life.

They met in Poland. Then ran into each other in New York—first, at the synagogue; then, at the dance. He offered her punch. She asked him to hold her shawl. And sure, all this is romantic, you're thinking. Until it hits you, "Why the heck did it take you that long to ask her out, Grandpa?," or, "Come on! It took two countries, three years and a friend in common to get you guys to one silly movie?" The only thing to do in eureka moments such as this, is to apply it to yourself. Someone, somewhere is waiting for you to hurry up—and speak up.

Still Points North

Leigh Newman is the deputy editor at and the author of Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown Up World, One Long Journey Home.

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