Broken and Beautiful

We are all broken.

Life is full of beautiful, wonderful experiences. It is also inevitably peppered by challenge and difficulty; that seasoning being heavier for some than others. Our struggles may have marred our childhoods, adolescences, adulthoods, or all of the above. Arguably, some of the most severely impacted are those who had abusive childhoods or experienced profound illness or the death of someone close to them. The most jarring trials frequently involve pain and damage caused by those we love – parents, spouses, etc. We surface with baggage: insecurity, self-doubt, disappointment, anxiety, mistrust, heartache, unforgiveness, anger, resentment, and so on. In short, we emerge broken.

One of the themes I’ve consistently written about is the concept of finding opportunity in our struggles. I believe that while none of us wants to struggle or experience pain, we always have a choice in the way we deal with those challenges. We get to choose our reactions and our actions. We may use our adverse circumstances to induce lessons learned, or we can hide them deep inside us and allow the pain to poison us. I want to take this notion a step further.

We all have brokenness – our life’s struggles cannot and should not be compared; we are all different and are all impacted differently by what we experience. Still, we can look at the similarities and bonds that connect us rather than judging one another. When used for good, for positive change, for building relationships, for creating opportunity, our brokenness is not all for naught. Our brokenness can in fact become beautiful.

The Japanese art of Kintsugi involves repairing cracked, broken pottery using molten gold. The Japanese believe that the damaged pottery, with its mended fractures and breaks, is even more beautiful and valuable than before. This is a very meaningful metaphor for each of our lives, and the scars and cracks in our beings which result from our ordeals. In giving ourselves the permission to work through and heal from those trials, we may in fact emerge stronger and more complete than before.


In order to utilize the pain of our circumstance to create beauty, we must find repair; healing, forgiveness, growth. We must also accept in ourselves and each other the reality and asset of our brokenness. In our lives, we can benefit from these two choices to catalyze amazing transformation.

As imperfect human beings, we are so often afraid to face and share our brokenness, even though none of us is complete and faultless. We set unattainable expectations of ourselves and each other. I have long felt that when we seek and choose positive and effective relationships, we find the strength to heal and the desire to grow, but this starts with openness and communication, which takes time and comfort. These uplifting and bolstering relationships can be of any type, but ultimately we should ideally choose to share our lives with people with whom we can be ourselves, and who bestow upon us acceptance and support. And, in the context of a romantic partnership, an ideal mate accepts us without judgment and loves us in our brokenness; helps us to see our value, encourages us to aspire to change and greatness. This is very different than a mate who demands change, who points at our weaknesses and brokenness and calls us inadequate. Rather, it is a choice we make for ourselves; to want to be better and have better for ourselves, and that desire is based on love and acceptance. We are pushed to be extraordinary.

Perhaps we were never meant to be flawless and uninjured – we can use our experience and pain and turn it into wisdom and opportunity. In embracing our flaws and imperfection, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we can uncover profound beauty and value within ourselves, and discover opportunity to achieve the successes and attitudes we strive for. In our restoration, we are stronger and more precious than before.

Perhaps we were never meant to be complete and self-sufficient – in sharing our pain and experience with others and accepting our need for them, we exchange this wisdom, offer acceptance and inspire evolution and advancement in our own and others’ lives. And, not only do we grow and nurture others, we benefit these relationships with deep intimacy, too.

We are beautiful in our brokenness.

Beautiful Disarray

Find serenity in the unknown,
Treasuring the voyage on meandering paths
That lead to triumphs and trials of great worth.

Possibilities lie beyond a thousand doors,
For those unafraid to turn knobs,
And willing to tempt fate for windfall.

Beautiful disarray, a pleasing revolution.


For a past with a different future.
For decisions that come easily.
For balance and harmony.
An unrealistic result.
For understanding without judgment.
Apologies come too late.
Regrets serve no one.
With a desire to acquire wisdom.
The opportunity in pain.
The many joys and pleasures.
The panoramic potential.

I Run With Scissors

When I was a young child, I got ahold of a pair of scissors and teased my mom by flashing them before her and promptly running away. I left her with a very dangerous conundrum: chase me and risk me falling on those scissors, or ignore me and risk exactly the same fate! Not a very pleasant decision to be left with. I can’t say that the rest of my childhood and teen years left my parents in a much easier position, because I had the dangerous combination of intellect, determination and a predilection to all things naughty. That’s not to say that my parents weren’t and aren’t proud of me, or that I wasn’t balanced by ethics and a conscience, but I have heard time and time again that I was not the easiest of children to rear. Now that I can look back with some perspective, I can see why they were right. However, I can also see that with maturity and life experience, that boldness is partly what makes me the resilient woman I am.

Now in my early thirties, my propensity for risk has been moderated by common sense and a measure of wisdom, discretion and patience. I now have a passionate and clever child of my own to care for, admire and contend with. I have a strong focus on setting and achieving important goals around career, education and other personal interests. Personal relationships are important to me so I try to be careful to preserve or enhance them. As an adult, I recognize how my choices colour my own life and its progression, and therefore my decisions have a more evident impact on me than they did when I was a 3-year old with a thirst for making my mother sweat.

Still, I sometimes run with scissors. After all these years, my motivation for doing so is not to make anyone fret, but rather to push the limits of life and see if somehow I have improved a circumstance or come away with a meaningful experience. I firmly believe that life is not really lived if there is no risk involved, and correspondingly we cannot grow if we don’t stretch ourselves sometimes. I don’t believe that people achieve great professional success without some risk; applying for a job we aren’t qualified for or confidently networking with an intimidating professional powerhouse. I think that, too often, we miss out on incredible encounters because we are fearful of outcomes we can’t possibly predict. Then, we spend a good portion of our lives wondering what might have been. And in the end, whether we take the risk or not, we still can’t predict the outcome of the status quo situation.

{Let me stop for a minute to make a clarification. I am in no way encouraging purposeful and premeditated risks directly involving someone else’s life. Though our personal choices inevitably affect others, I am merely deliberating the idea that often, with great risk comes great reward. And having been on the receiving end of pain as a result of others’ choices, I can furthermore conclude that I am a stronger person as a result of those situations. Moreover, I am not trying to indicate that I bear distaste for stability or consistency in life.}

I was reminded yet again this week that we never know when we may have lived our last day. People die in disastrous, unexpected circumstances every day, and scores of others die during their daily commute (excuse the melancholic moment, but it’s the truth). Living according to this philosophy may encourage us to take more risks, and also treat differently our relationships with others. I personally try to build straightforward, fruitful relationships in all facets of life, treating people well and striving to perhaps enhance their lives somehow. Ultimately, I really never know when they might move on. So, it is in the relational matters of life where I tend to take the greatest risks; putting my heart on the line, speaking my truth, going against the grain.

The principle of risk-taking can be applied to nearly everything in life, from career decisions to romantic forays, financial investments to extreme sports. We each have unique risk tolerances in each part of our lives. I would argue, nonetheless, that we don’t gain anything by sitting on our hands and thinking about what we could have done, accomplished or experienced. That’s not to say that decisions involving risk are easy to make, but I have begun to realize that my gut feelings are usually right and over-analysis only complicates matters. That same over-analysis which might strike fear into my heart would also inhibit me from having an amazing and life-altering experience or an opportunity to learn something profound and empowering. Sometimes we must seize an opportunity, however scary, in order to benefit from inexplicable growth or joy. And while our fears may become reality and we might get genuinely hurt, I would challenge that those occasions offer us invaluable life lessons and opportunities for self-reflection. The alternative to healthy risk-taking is that we in fact risk much more: the slipping of time like sand through our fingertips, without having experienced it fully.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” ~William Shakespeare – The Tragedy of Julius Caesar


I just recently read an article in the current spring issue of The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine that made me think about something we most often take for granted: weeds. It is a photo essay of stunning quality; its images moved me in a way that perhaps you might find strange. It begins with a formidable photo that really looks more like a painting, one I’d purchase without a second thought. The image is of papery, fiery poppies lining a cracked roadway. A sea of teacup blossoms, soft teardrop buds and seed pods waiting to ejaculate life across their expanding lea.

The essay speaks of humanity’s desire to abolish the weed from our perfect little gardens and how yet our world would be much less colourful and in some cases, less fruitful and healthful, if it were not for those plants we call invaders. We see weeds as plants that are ugly, unwanted, or simply growing where they ought not to be. I desire not to be seen as someone that unnecessarily creates metaphors simply for the sake of them, but I truly felt impassioned to draw some simple links between my life and the weed. And certainly, I could turn this into a social missive, discussing the way we classify people as unwanted or undesirable to suit societal ideals, but I won’t.

What I will instead relay is how, in experiencing this essay, I was struck by the image of a lone chamomile plant stubbornly surviving in a dark subway. I closed my eyes and imagined the sweet scent the chamomile blossom emits, and the lovely, calmative tea it gives us. Then, I was moved by a winter photograph of a tenacious bramble bush pouring over a fence, so abundant it reminded me of the strength and fullness with which a river flows over every rock and outcropping in its path, unrestrained. And finally, a photo of ash seedlings, sheltering between abandoned railway tracks; where humans no longer see utility, the minimalism of nature finds solace.

And so, it occurred to me that so many times in my life, circumstances have seemed imperfect, untimely and ugly. I’ll spare you the details of those hurts and disappointments, but I think many of us know that if we are wise, we’ll look back upon difficult situations in our lives and attempt to draw strength and opportunity from them. And even as I struggle now with arduous, complicated situations and decisions, I recognize these occasions are really a gift. All of those trials have provided me with a realistic perspective of life and its sometimes inconvenient circumstances; the strength I own in my mind and spirit to conquer them; the relationships that have been built in the process; the innumerable joys that have ultimately resulted after the worst storms. As I read the article, I was reminded that this same poppy, purposefully plowed out of farmers’ fields, has prevented much human suffering through its medicinal properties. Then, I contemplated the comforting yet haunting imagery of Flanders Fields, from whence it became the inspiration for a timeless poem. What more strikingly immortal place could a weed occupy?

I’m in no way indicating I’ll allow weeds to overrun my garden, but I will say that I will look at them differently when I struggle to pull their deep roots out of the soil in which they cling so obstinately. As the article clearly states, weeds are our most successful plants. They live abundantly in some of the most desolate, tortured and extreme living conditions. They keep trying, despite our best efforts to eradicate them, to live richly in the face of adversity, and some of them manage tremendous beauty in the process.

You can read the essay here and the photo gallery is viewable, but you’d be remiss not to pick up the magazine to see the full sized photographs in the set if they interest you.