I remember the first time I was in a car accident. It was a relatively minor one, as car accidents go, but I can still feel the deep, aching desire I had to wipe away the crunched metal and broken places from the side of the car.
I wanted nothing more than to find a way to magically make things go back to the way they used to be before the damage happened.
It didn't work that way, of course. It required the intervention of a body shop to fix the car's damage, and it never did return to its original condition due to a slight bending of the car's frame that couldn't be fully straightened.
That longing to reverse the damage, to make things exactly as they were before the car was broken by the impact is one that still recurs every time I encounter new brokenness—of things, of relationships, of my fragile heart—along life's journey.
Every bit of me cries out for things to go back to just like they were before. I long for the damage, the loss, the brokenness to vanish like a mirage so I continue with my known status quo.
Failing that, then I at least want the healing process to take me back to exactly how things were before the brokenness happened. In fact, for a very long time I considered healing incomplete if it didn't restore to me life as I had known it.
I've since learned that this is not how healing—or life—works. Healing actually works more like the kintsugi process and repairs the brokenness without going back to how it was. It adds golden beauty to the piece in the process.
As I've lived with the kintsugi metaphor over the past few years, I'm learning new ways to measure healing that honor and embrace what is being created as I release what was and is no longer. Here's what that looks like for me.
Releasing how it was
My first reaction to things breaking is still that intense, instantaneous longing for it to be magically restored to how it was, but I'm learning the importance of releasing that stranglehold grip on what was by learning to grieve better.
Grief done well allows me to honor and appreciate and value what I've lost, while still recognizing that it is now gone.
There is no going back to how it was before. There is only going forward to a new version of life that may heal the broken places, but at the same time creates something new.
I may still be sad about the loss, I may still miss what I once had, but actively moving through the grief process allows me to make space for something new to arise.
If I'm only looking backward at what I've lost, I may not only miss seeing the new thing being created, but I'll definitely miss the chance to influence the creation process and outcome.
Actively creating the new you
Something new always arises out of loss, but in our grief and looking backwards at what was, we can easily allow ourselves to simply drift into a new reality that may or may not be what we would have chosen.
We lose our job and grab at the first opportunity offered without taking time to think through what might best suit us in this stage in our lives (which might not be what suited us best in the past).
A relationship ends and we rush into the first one that comes available to avoid being alone without first determining what we most want and need in a relationship or what lesson we might learn from the last one.
Taking an active role in creating the new life that is emerging for us means spending time actively imagining what's possible, considering what options will best suit our ongoing growth in becoming the person we want to be, and absorbing any lessons that might be available in what has happened.
From that information, we take proactive steps to create a future that will serve us well for the person we are becoming, not the person we have been.
Embracing the new you
As the new life that we are creating begins to blossom into being, it is important that we embrace it fully.
This doesn't mean that we may not still mourn and still value what came before (valuing the past which shaped us is important too!), but we don't let that past prevent us from moving forward with the person we are becoming and life we are creating.
As with any new creation, the new life we are creating is likely to be filled with all of the messiness of the creative process—the false starts, the adjustments (or even 180-turns) along the way, the trial and error of doing something new.
Without our full embrace of this new endeavor and our commitment to the new life we dream of creating, it is easy to get discouraged and distracted when things don't miraculously come together the first time.
Embracing the new means fully committing to it while still allowing room for it to grow, develop, and change as we move into that new reality.
Holding the new you lightly
As we create this new life out of the pieces of the old one, it is tempting to hold even more tightly to what we are creating out of fear that we might lose it again as we did before. But that sets us up for more devastation and pain as life inevitably changes and shifts over time.
When we can hold our new life (and new self) loosely, we empower ourselves to continue growing and adapting to what life brings our way, making us more resilient over time.
Living through the inevitable times of loss and brokenness in our lives through the lens of actively creating new kintsugi patterns allows us to heal, grow, and move forward in ways that serve us powerfully and better match the reality of the constant change and loss that life brings.
Questions to ponder
What is your first reaction to loss or brokenness? How can you move yourself from that first reaction to a place of actively creating the new you that is emerging?
What practices facilitate that movement? What habits interfere with that shift, keep you stuck in the past, or cause you to grab the first available thing that comes along?
What does it mean to you to actively create kintsugi patterns with the broken pieces in your life? When have you done that well? What was the result?
What is one thing you can do right now to move toward actively creating the new you that you wish to become? Will you commit to doing it?