Hemingway famously said,
“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
I think that’s true. Except when it isn’t. The world absolutely breaks everyone, in some way, at some time. No one escapes entirely unscathed.
I think some people pick up the pieces, and try desperately to put them back together in such a way that no one can tell they were ever broken. They want to be seamless in their healing. They want to look perfect from the outside, even though they are battle scarred beneath the surface, even though the fractures run deep.
I get that. I do. Our society rewards people who ‘bounce back’ like nothing ever happened. The thing is, that entails hiding. Forever.
Hiding is exhausting.
Some people choose to stay broken, either because they are so wounded by whatever has befallen them that they simply cannot do the hard work of rebuilding themselves from the ground up, or because there is something to be gained by remaining undone.
I remember feeling that way for a while after my divorce. As though if I were healthy and moving toward happiness, it meant that what had been done to me wasn’t that bad. It felt like wellness would be giving a pass to my ex-husband for his behavior.
Staying mired in the pain of the past and trying to renegotiate things that have already happened isn’t a win for anyone, in any way.
There is a third option, though, if you’re willing to be a little brave.
In Japanese culture, there is an artistic tradition called kintsukuroi, or kintsugi. Loosely translated, that means ‘the golden repair.’ It is the art of repairing broken objects, usually pottery, with precious metals mixed in the resin, so that the cracks- the broken places- in the object are not only visible, they’re kind of the POINT.
It is a meticulous process. The damage must be acknowledged. Each crack, each broken piece must be examined and lined up precisely for the repair to truly hold.
The reason they take the time to painstakingly do this is because they look at the brokenness as a valued part of the object’s history, and honor it accordingly.
I don’t know if we’re all strong at the broken places. I hope I am. I do know this, though- the people who really knock me out, the people who I look at in wonderment, are the people who have taken stock of their broken places and then honored them. Left them visible. Made them beautiful.
Because here’s the thing- when we hide our fault lines, when we conceal our battle scars, we might feel more comfortable, but we also feel more alone.
When we examine our broken places, when we step forward and say, This happened, and I was hurt, but I’m STILL HERE, then we ALL feel less alone. We feel in community– and it is so much easier to be brave when you know you aren’t alone.
It’s why my divorce was such a gift. Really, aside from my children, the best gift of my life. It was awful, and painful, and humiliating, and I thank God for it every single day. Because I was so shattered, I couldn’t fake it any more. I just started showing up and saying, This happened.
Then the most amazing thing started to take place. All of these people- people I thought I knew, who I thought were so TOGETHER, started saying, Me too. They started sharing their stories, and acknowledging their broken places.
Suddenly, I felt less alone, and so did they. And then one of two things happened- my friendships either deepened, because we were really seeing each for the first time, broken parts and all- or they fell away. That’s painful, to learn that a relationship is predicated solely on the shiny, happy, skin-deep version of yourself, but it is GOOD INFORMATION.
My hope is that this blog becomes a place where we can honor our broken places, and really SEE one another. Here’s to more, Me Too.