We don’t celebrate brokenness in my culture.
Here in the States, we are very much of the mind that broken things require replacement with something newer, better.
While kintsugi restores functionality to an object, it also adds beauty and worth. With the price of gold now, it could easily make a broken piece worth much more than it was whole.
I like this concept.
I particularly like this concept in a month where more than one friend has had to deal with the suicide of someone they knew and loved.
Brokenness, you see, needs attention.
In a society where brokenness means you are a throwaway, rather than something to be mended and celebrated as a keeper, it is hard sometimes for struggling souls to admit they are battling something bigger than them—depression, anxiety, something that seems insurmountable. Something or a host of somethings that leave them feeling alone and unsupported in any way that really matters.
My friends tell similar stories of their loved, and now deceased, ones. They had dinner or a quick visit, per their norm. The other across the table seemed fine. Nothing out of the ordinary.
And then, within a brief 24-hour span, their loved one had killed himself.
My friends struggle with guilt. “Shouldn’t I have known?” they ask. “I should have delved deeper.”
“How could you have?” I answer. “It’s not always apparent when someone is struggling.”
Trust me. I know.
If you had seen me in my darkest days during a crazy divorce and the months that surrounded it (loss of parents, sister with cancer, financial woes), you might not have known how much I struggled. You probably did not know, in fact. It’s not something I was raised to show.
We know there is a clock ticking. The sporting thing to do is deal with your mess privately and move on. Everyone applauds moving on. Everyone applauds the brave face at the funeral.
It’s really so much horseshit, if you ask me.
There is no one clock. No one fixable situation. No one way to deal with a situation, particularly one that is chronic in nature.
Maybe your pain is caused by someone else’s actions. And maybe you are tied to that person by children, the law, what have you.
Maybe your pain was caused by your own actions but there is no quick fix. Rather, a long, slow recovery in which you will take two steps forward for every one back. But it will hurt for a long time. And the consequences will continue unabated for some time.
Regardless, we need to see brokenness and not avert our eyes. We need to sense it, tuning into that sixth sense that most of us have not honed.
We need to stop with the cheery, stiff upper lip bit. There are some situations in which that does not work.
If someone’s pain surpasses your capacity for understanding, so be it.
See their brokenness. Throw away the damned stopwatch. Find someone who knows of what they speak—or what they don’t speak.
Be the gold that helps them mend. Or find someone who is.
And then treasure them for their brokenness. As well as their mended strength.
We should not have to hide any of it. It’s alchemy at its most beautiful.
I’m as guilty as anyone else at not always sensing someone else’s pain. Particularly if I’m distracted with my own day-to-day tasks and worries.
But, as I watch friends in pain because they’ve lost someone substantial in their lives, I realize we need to remove the stigma around being broken.
There is no shame in having to be mended. It is generally only the well-used pieces that require it.