Something more beautiful for being broken

Something More Beautiful For Being Broken by Margaret Lambert, LCSW

Kintsukuroi: Japanese for “to repair with gold” with the understanding that the piece is more beautiful for being broken.

This technique is a metaphor for resilience. It speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

I read a story that told of a master Japanese potter who asked his apprentices to bring to his studio the most perfect completed piece of pottery that came from his final kiln firing. The story went on to say that when the perfect piece was presented to the master, he asked the apprentice to break the piece by dropping it on the floor before the master. The master then with infinite care picked up the pieces, and using ceramic and gold dust, repaired the vessel. 
The piece of pottery became more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl began the moment it was dropped. The proof of its fragility and its resilience was what made it beautiful.

This metaphor isn’t all that different from that of people going through the end of a committed relationship. But somehow, the broken relationship can lead to the belief that they themselves are broken and beyond repair; that life will never be happy again because without their partner they are no longer worthwhile.

Dr. Bruce Fisher, in his book Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends stated “For many people, divorce is a broken experience, and before they can go on with their lives they need to pick up the pieces.“  When a relationship ends it seems to bring with it so many words that refer to it’s brokenness; split, destroyed, ruined, coming apart, divided, shattered or fragmented.

As the above story states, it is like the precious bowl that slips from your grip only to crash to the floor and break into pieces. First there is a sense of disbelief, “I can’t believe I just dropped this.” or “How did this happen? This was grandmother’s favorite bowl.”   Then as you stare at the fragments on the floor there is a realization that what shouldn’t have happened DID happen and there is no going back; there is too much damage and the bowl doesn’t seem to be repairable.

This is followed by the feelings that come when what you ideally want and what you have are two different things.  Sadness, anger, hurt, disappointment, guilt and fear set in. “What will grandmother think when she hears I have broken her favorite bowl that she gave to me?”

The next moment brings another attempt to go back in time and prevent the incident.  “If I hadn’t been in such a hurry then I wouldn’t have dropped the bowl.” “If you had just given me more warning that you were going to pass it, I would have been more watchful.” We try to fix a situation by affixing blame to either ourselves or to someone else.

And then we hit the fork in the road.  Choices loom over us awaiting a decision; a call to action.  Should I sweep it under the rug and not look at it for awhile. Do I just trash it all and run out and buy some reasonable facsimile to fill up my hands? Or, should I do what I can to piece it together only to be left with an ugly version of something beautiful that once was?

At some point a person begins to realize that they can’t change what has happened.  But if they continue to focus on the brokenness and the loss, they may miss the opportunity to see that breakage and repair is just part of being human. And part of being human is getting a chance to start over. Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  When you begin to fill in the fractures of your life with new experiences, new goals, new friends and new meaning you might just begin to see that brokenness can be turned into something even better if you let go of what was and embrace what can be.

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be the blade that was broken, the crown-less again shall be king.” – J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.


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