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.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. There is no hiding of the original crack or fracture. The gold forces the observer to take notice of the fissure.
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.
Not something most of us in this culture are 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.
29 Comments Add yours
I had never heard of kintsugi before. What a wonderful concept and your comparison with our throwaway brokenness culture is most apt.
Thank you for the kind words and for stopping by my blog. I am glad this one struck a chord with you. That’s what we all hope for when we write, right?
Reblogged this on meaganlorraine and commented:
So well written… So much truth…
Thank your for the reblog! I’m glad the truths hit you in this one. And glad you stopped by.
The wounds of battle with life’s misfortunes are something to applaud. All the more when there is that stoicism to remain standing or the will stand up again. All the more when we spare a little of ourselves to help those who, for a time, cannot stand alone. Please accept a 🐻 hug. 🙂
You are very wise here, Kay. People are the most precious things in our lives, and great care should be taken to help, not hide, the mending process.
Great post and it really spoke to me today. I’m sorry for the circumstances that inspired it. My father committed suicide nearly 20 years ago, so I know too well the challenges that come with grieving such a loss. Some days I feel so broken, not just from the loss of my dad but other situations as well. I like the idea of Kintsugi. It’s a nice visual for a hard reality in a world that just as you said doesn’t celebrate brokenness. Thank you for your beautiful words.
Oh, I’m so very sorry about your father. I’m sure that’s a hurt that sticks. I loved the idea of being mended with gold in the broken spots also. And emerging stronger, while not trying to hide the changes. Wishing you peace.
When I broke my first bone, my doctor told me it would heal stronger in the broken places. This reminded me of that.
i liked it
Wow, beautiful post. Yes, we often want to look beyond the cracks and keep things superficial. Even with good friends, there’s a tendency to put your best face forward, even when we feel down. How sad to lose someone you care about and not see they were struggling. Life can be lonely but it doesn’t have to be.
People are not broken or damaged.
They are hurt, they delve in the past unable to move on.
And yes being the gold is just that helping them move on.
They are broken open for sure. And I think that may be part of the plan . . .
Even though I don’t always agree with the tendency to label people (or ourselves) as ‘broken’, I love the beautiful way you used the metaphor here. Great writing 🙂
Thank you for this beautiful post.
This post resonates with me. Firstly the ‘throwaway’ attitude which unfortunately extends to people. Secondly the deep pain there is in trying to hide pain as that is what we are supposed to do – be brave – and it is so difficult keeping that facade going day after day after day, if it isn’t real. Thirdly, once you decide to show pain it is amazing the number of people who will come and lean on you and say ‘I am broken too’.
I am sure that facade must be exhausting if it becomes a chronic necessity. And by using it, we cheat ourselves out of the opportunity to meet the others who will come and lean, right? I think about my divorce. When people found out, how many private stories I heard of marital misery that I’ve had to keep close and not share. We are far from alone in our misery . . .
I love the visual of the bowl. It really brings your point to life.
You have the most beautiful way with words…I assessed clients who were suicidal for 2 yrs and I definitely had to go with my gut and felt I could sense someone’s pain but that’s because it was my job. No one can read someone’s mind and when someone doesn’t open up about being depressed, there is nothing we can do. I recently wrote about being depressed in my blog and I wrote: “I’ve been processing more about why is it so hard to open up about depression. Why is it so hard to say ‘I’ve been depressed the last few months’ when asked how you are doing. I think no one wants to be a “downer.” Which is silly, isn’t it. Life is hard. Feelings should be expressed.”
Isn’t it odd that it’s a gut feeling that usually tells us what our brains cannot? Detectives who have cracked big cases say the same. I guess detecting someone’s pain would use the same sense. I’m glad you expressed your feelings and hope people stepped up to support you. The toughest ones are the “fixers” who want to be cheery and show you all the bright spots versus listening and helping you work your way through it.
I agree detecting pain is using that gut feeling but it’s even difficult for some therapists to sense it (with that said, they prob aren’t really good therapists now that I think about it). I think it’s important to urge people to talk about their pain and open up to others what they are going through…so many people don’t and that is what saddens me….
Beautiful. Thank u for ur transparency and honesty always. I love the gold in the broken areas. So ministering. As I talk to people so many hurting, in pain and in this the love of of God is being revealed.
Thanks, Blue. I’m glad you stopped by.
Oh, Kay, I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today. And this:
“Be the gold that helps them mend. Or find someone who is.”
What a treasure.
Thank you for your tender reminder of this (I understand your friends’ hasn’t been so).
I love it when we minister to each other, Dani. Glad my words resonated. Wishing you peace today.
Beautifully written from a wise heart Kay. Because of your journey you will now sense it in another, feel the pain from just looking into their eyes…for there go I but for the love of God. You have healed yourself.
And sometimes others are afraid, they are only just keeping their heads above day to day stress and are afraid to reach out to another, because they CAN feel their pain and are afraid it will bring their’s to the surface, which means facing their own fears. And we all avoid that at all costs…simply because we think we can’t face it.
That is the journey, to finally stand up, even though we are afraid, and say ‘help me’, and know we can get that help. Be in a position to know that help will be forthcoming. And step past that stigma of thinking there is something wrong with them…even though 100% percent of the population all go through their own painful journey’s in their own painful ways. All need help at some time in their lives. A system needs to be put in place at school to show all that it is ok to ask for help. It should be a mandatory part of growing up in schools to help everyone to express themselves freely and get any guidance that is needed. This safety net seems to be missing or very rudimentary at best.
And like you, with the healing time that becomes a part of who you are from what you’ve been through, that then allows further healing to others from the wisdom and love that is gained from the journey.
Great post Kay. Mark
I agree, Mark. Teaching our kids from a young age that help will be necessary at certain points in life would be ever so wise. Thank you for the thoughtful commentary.
This post is just beautiful and resonated in my soul. You speak such truth here. Namaste.