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!