Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Repairing the Damage

I am not the same woman I was ten years ago.

The process of beating addiction requires you to tear yourself apart, layer by layer, and then to reassemble yourself, as best you can.

Then I got breast cancer, and dealing with that was very similar. I was shattered, and had to gradually rebuild.

I didn't just end up emotionally scarred, I was physically scarred too - an ex-lush with only 1.75 breasts and a big gash where one of my my sentinel lymph nodes used to be. Not to mention the damage inflicted by three lots of childbirth and breast feeding.

It's very easy to emerge from all of that feeling damaged. Flawed. Imperfect.

That's why I loved a performance I saw recently by the amazing feminist poet - Megan Beech.

(Megan's debut poetry collection was brilliantly titled "When I Grow Up I Want to be Mary Beard.")

Megan performed a piece about living with depression. She compared her relationship with mental illness to the Japanese art of Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum, thereby creating a piece much more beautiful and unique than the 'perfect' original.

It is said that when this new art emerged in the late 15th century, collectors became so enamoured with it that they would deliberately smash valuable pottery so that it could be repaired with the golden seams of kintsugi.

Kintsugi is not just an art, it's also a philosophy which treats breakage and repair as part of the unique history, or story, of an object, rather than something to disguise.

In a book about mended Japanese ceramics, Christy Bartlett writes "not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated."

Another brilliant poet, Leonard Cohen, said the same in these lyrics from Anthem:  

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in.

And the truth is that those repaired cracks and flaws are what makes us unique and precious and beautiful. We shouldn't be ashamed of them, we should celebrate them - highlight them in gold and make them shimmer.

It also makes us brave and fearless, because we know that even if something is thrown at us that makes us shatter again, we have the ability to rebuild, and to - eventually - emerge even better.

I like to think that understanding Kintsugi can make us less judgemental too, that instead of criticising the flaws and imperfections of others we can see them as marks of a bewitching individuality.

So, if you are feeling battered and bruised by life, then don't be, because it's those scars which make you beautiful, unique and courageous.

There's lots of new stuff on the SoberMummy Facebook page, including much heated debate on the Liz Jones article about the misery that is sobriety (*angry face*). 'Like' the page to stay updated.

To listen to my TEDx talk on Making Sober Less Shameful click here.

To read about the ups and downs of the first year sober in The Sober Diaries click here (UK), or here (USA) or here (Australia).

To hear Megan perform her kintsugi poem, click here.

Love to you all!

SM x


  1. Ah, yes! Liz Jones.... Misery in its human form.

  2. Thank you, I love Kintsugi and the philosophy behind it. A lovely uplifting post, SM xxx

  3. I think she has her issues. Please disregard. You are an inspiration.

  4. What a beautiful inspiring post SM. You've pricked an interest in me, and I've already found an upcoming workshop on Kintsugi techniques in Geneva this June. Anyone else interested? ;)



  5. I love this💗 I think when I was drinking I tried to hide all my problems and imperfections. Being sober has exposed them for all to see, and your right we should be proud of that! A beautiful post for a beautiful day! Thanks SM 😚xxx

  6. I had never heard of kintsugi ... What a fabulous concept ... I am sure it will be an inspiration to many of us in that remaking of ourselves .... Our futures are all looking golden :-)

  7. What an interesting post; you never cease to amaze me with new perspectives and insights on subjects that tie back to,or relate to our issues with alcohol. Imperfect is beautiful too! Thank you Clare

  8. Maybe this is why I've had so much trouble getting rid of lovely plates that have broken? I might kintsugi a ceramic or two while I'm re-stitching myself.
    Thank you, Clare.

  9. Today is day 1 for me and I am both excited & terrified! I had decided a while back that today would be the day as I was taking my Mum out yesterday for a celebration. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and yesterday by pure luck & coincidence I finished your book. Your final chapter on how different you felt after a year really inspired me & made me feel that I can do this & more importantly, I really want to do this. Thank you!

  10. Yes. Needed this too. Feeling like sh*t today. Thank you for the link to Megan's performance.x

  11. Day six for me and so far I’m doing ok. I’ve tried to be honest with people when I tell them I’m not drinking and so far people have been supportive. I do realise I’ve got some plates to mend but all in good time. Meanwhile I’m going to take one day at a time and reading your blog will no doubt help. X

  12. A great piece CP. THANK YOU for the time you invest in this blog.
    You know what, I am becoming grateful that I became broken because if I hadn't then I would have never really have had the need to really look at myself and challenge myself to become a better human being. I have begun to live in the moment and appreciate every ounce of my existence. I am glad that I have been broken as I would have never, otherwise, been able to have the empathy that I now have for others. LOVE TO YOU AND ALL. Keep inspiring us CP xx

  13. Very true. An insightful post with lots to ponder. X

  14. Wonderful post SM - still providing new insights after 3 years - awesome!

  15. Tomorrow I get my test results. Praying I have not given myself cancer by drinking so much. #proudlyafnow Thank you for your posts and your book. I would be a complete mess without them.

  16. Day 1 for the final time I had done really well at the beginning of the year, but have had loads of stress recently and now at long last realise that alcohol does not help me in any way dealing with it. A brilliant blog as normal, will come back every day to read up dates love to you SM

    1. Hey Mary, good to see you are back. Please come back to us in the newbies section, we miss you xxx

  17. Yay, glad you are back Mary. Will reply properly in the newbies section. Meggie xxx

  18. Hi Maggie, I realise now that I need to stop drinking my family and husband needs me not someone who is reliant on alcohol. So yesterday was DAY 1 I had smoothies fresh food and lots of water, I swam 1.6k so now each week will swim 2k cycle 18k each week and do 10 minuets meditation and yoga each day. I will be back each day to catch up xxx

  19. I really love how you write it and put so much hope inside

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