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.

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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.

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Freedom

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Freedom is a state of mind, not ordinarily an actual reality. We can feel free rather than exist freely. Our current world, which we have created for ourselves and others, intentionally or inadvertently but mostly as a result of irresponsibility, makes true freedom impossible. In some parts of the world, people fight for physical freedom: from slavery, forced prostitution, oppression and abuse of various kinds. In North America, we also subsist tied to society’s ideals and anchors: our phones, televisions, magazines and computers. We live by the news, our neighbours’ judgments, the size of our houses and genitalia. I would argue that I’m not the worst of offenders and generally carry around a positive attitude and only healthy concern for others’ opinions of me. But, am I free?

I find joy in freedom (who doesn’t), but I also enjoy responsibility; in my career, my family, my education. I am conscientious, reliable and typically loyal, and I thrive on accountability. I respect authority and hierarchy where necessary. I excel, given deadlines. Perhaps this makes me seem like an inherent dichotomy, and so be it.

So, during a two week vacation to BC and the Yukon, I had lofty goals of completing unreasonable amounts of work in the “off-hours”, and while I did do some good work, I found myself with a strong desire to just BE. Excuse me if that sounds like a cliché, but it’s as accurate a description of what I was pining for as I can come up with.

The drive from Whitehorse, Yukon to Atlin, British Columbia is idyllic. The evergreen trees are densely packed, a sea of deep shades of green, as dark and healthy as I’ve ever seen. The road meanders endlessly, taking you further and further from civilization. Atlin Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in BC, extends on the right, glassy and calm. Mountain after mountain reaches into the sapphire sky, steadfast and determined to dwarf everything surrounding it. It is there that you feel the world slip away, leaving you isolated and solitary. It is precisely that feeling which I was eager for.

Visiting family, I sat alone, perched on the edge of a rail-less upper deck, overlooking Atlin Lake and the Coastal Mountains. I felt free. For a few minutes, there was nothing else in the world but me, the placid water, the astounding mountains and the warm sun gilding the entire picture. For a few moments, freedom felt like a reality, inchoate. And then, it was interrupted by children shouting and playing, and lighthearted adults enjoying the esprit de corps and a grand meal. Those sounds bring joy in and of themselves, but a different feeling altogether. I felt disappointed not to have enjoyed that freedom a little longer, and for a moment was even irritated. I returned to the large group and enjoyed the rest of the evening immensely. I watched my son play with his “new-to-him” cousins and again, felt a different kind of delight and ease.

This trip brought much time for fun, and also contemplation and quiet. I thought I would write all about each place we visited but I didn’t feel the draw. I felt rather inspired to quiet my mind and in that, I found freedom. I realized that I seek and acquire freedom in many ways, by choice alone. The reality of life is that freedom, at least the way I define it, is impossible as a corporeal, daily existence. There is a big difference between outer and inner freedom and these are not interdependent. With the right attitude and a choice to be present in those miraculous and ecstatic moments, I can maximize the experience of wonderful liberty.

I write (at times) to set free pent-up feelings and desires. I am quiet in order to abandon the bustle of everyday life. I find ease and purity in the laughter of my son. I take risks to pursue liberation from routine. I lose myself in the writing of others. I’m taken to far-off places in savouring decadent foods. I push myself professionally and academically in a self-determined avoidance of mediocrity. I discover freedom in my intellectual pursuits, in pleasure, in pain and in innovation. Freedom blooms inside as I nurture my imagination, my spirituality, my sensuality, my femininity, my style, my uniqueness. I am liberated in seizing opportunities to show kindness, sincerity, and hospitality. I feel released in being a source of pleasure to those I care for. Most of all, I’m free when, with attention to morality, I act authentically and put aside any concerns separate from the current experience. Inner freedom, for me, comes too with letting go of fear. This inner freedom, detached from circumstance, is something I’ll continually strive for, fail at acquiring, and attempt again and again.

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