Rebuilding on unsteady ground

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

eggshell with cracks in it against black background
Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

For all of the wide variety of stone types and shapes that I perform kintsugi repairs on, the stones I work with fall into two basic categories in practicality—those with a flat surface and those without.

Stones that have a flat surface are much easier to reassemble because it is possible for them to rest on flat surface as the pieces are put back together and for them to hold that shape as they cure.

Stones that don't have a flat surface are much, much more challenging to work with, and it doesn't take much of a curvature to the surface of the stone to make this the case. The reassembly process is tricky enough because I can't set them down and expect gravity to keep the pieces together.

That curve in the surface (no matter how slight) means gravity pulls the edges of the break away from one another as soon as it's set on a flat surface.

It's even more challenging to find ways to hold them together after the break lines have been filled. It takes 24 hours or more for the material to cure, and the pieces are actually more likely to slide around relative to one another in that interval between application and cure.

This means that I have to find ways to prop these stones upright in all sorts of awkward configurations to get gravity to work with me instead of against me to hold the pieces together while the curing process takes place.

It requires finding ways to prop them straight up on edges that aren't entirely flat so that they don't sit at angles that would push pieces out of alignment and in ways that keep them stable enough that they don't fall over during the curing time. It also means finding ways to do this so that they don't wind up irrevocably adhered to whatever is propping them up as any excess filling compound cures.

I'm constantly working on finding better ways to deal with this challenge that will provide consistently good results, and my repertoire of props constantly expands to meet the needs I am facing.

Just like life

As I work on this challenge, though, it keeps reminding me of what it was like as I tried to put the pieces of my life back together in the aftermath of everything falling apart around me. I was trying to reassemble my life on a ground that was still unstable with ongoing change and fallout from all that had happened.

My attempts to hold the pieces together long enough for them hold while stumbling over shaky, uneven ground often led to new breaks, re-opened fractures, and mis-aligned pieces throughout my reassembly process.

Over time, I discovered that what I needed was good props in all kinds of configurations to prop up different pieces that I was reassembling to hold them together on uneven ground long enough for them to re-attach. And at the same time, I needed choose props that I wouldn't become so stuck to (or dependent on) that I couldn't remove or readjust them when the need for them was done.

The need for these supporting props came in many different forms depending on the specific things I was dealing with at the time and intentionally developing a range of support structures was crucial. Different parts of my rebuilding process had very different support needs.

Keeping those supports healthy and non-addictive was also critical. Some early attempts to use ultimately unhealthy support structures actually created more damage than a lack of support would have. This lesson taught me to be picky about what I relied on during this time when I was so fragile.

Support for rebuilding

If you are going through a period of rebuilding your life after an experience of brokenness, you may find yourself feeling similarly fragile and attempting to rebuild on ground that feels unstable and unbalanced. If so, here are some of things that were helpful for me as healthy supports during that time in my life to help you brainstorm things that might work for you.

Relationships - Personal relationships with loved ones in our life can be a mixed bag during times like this. Some of these relationships can be incredibly supportive and helpful and can be key to our support system. But those closest to us are often affected by the same forces that caused our brokenness and are affected by any changes we are undergoing during the rebuilding process. This means that no matter how much they love and support us, they often have trouble staying in a neutral support role. They may tend to manipulate our process in an attempt to lessen the impact on them or be unable to fully support us if they are experiencing their own time of brokenness at the same time. When choosing the healthiest supports among your sphere of personal relationships, it helps to take these factors into consideration.

Professional support - Entering into relationships with professional therapists, counselors, or ministers can be a way to find supporters that are not impacted by our process and who can therefore support us without trying to influence or dictate our rebuilding. This can be a very helpful source of support, if you can find the right person (or people) for your needs.

Group support - Sometimes finding groups of people going through similar times of brokenness (like grief groups) can provide support from people who are navigating similar terrain but who are also separated enough from your own circumstances to stay more neutral to your actual rebuilding. Some groups are better than others in this regard. Make sure you choose one that allows you the freedom to heal in your own way at your own pace while offering support for wherever you are in your rebuilding.

Routine - When my life was feeling so unstable and chaotic, choosing to adhere to daily and weekly routines provided some much-needed structure to my life that helped support my efforts at reassembling the pieces. At various times, these routines involved adhering to a daily schedule, including self-care in my calendar, and scheduling weekly chores for set days of the week.

Grounding self-care - Rebuilding our lives takes a lot of energy, so ensuring that we are taking care of those energy needs through supportive self-care practices is crucial. It's equally important to choose self-care practices that are grounding to support our needs in dealing with an unstable landscape. This might include things like exercise, meditation, prayer, journaling, yoga, spending time in nature, getting enough rest, mindfulness practice, and healthy eating.

Inspiration - Reading inspirational or self-help books, listening to inspirational podcasts, or watching videos of inspirational speakers can help support the rebuilding process when our motivation flags over time. These authors and speakers can provide helpful ideas for moving forward as well as inspiration and motivation to keep going when we get tired.

Outside involvement - Engaging in hobbies, learning new skills, volunteering for good causes, or otherwise finding outlets that allow us to engage in things outside of our rebuilding process can in turn be supportive of it by giving us small breaks in our focus on the rebuilding to engage in things that make life worthwhile. These small breaks can help motivate us to keep going when the going gets rough.

Reassessment - Sometimes in the rebuilding process, we may find that there are parts of our life that are interfering with our ability to put things back together. This could be people we are in relationship with, groups we are part of, jobs we have, the place we live, or any number of other things that are either too closely linked with the source of the brokenness or are actively interfering with our ability to move forward. Although working to change some of these things may introduce additional chaos into an already unstable situation, making changes to replace unhelpful supports with more helpful ones as we find them can ultimately leap-frog the rebuilding process in dramatic ways.

Just like with my kintsugi repair of stones, choosing the best supports for what you need at this point in your rebuilding process is likely to be a constantly evolving process as your needs change and as you learn more about what is most helpful. What matters most is acknowledging this need for support and making intentional, conscious choices about what is healthiest and most supportive for where you are in that stage of rebuilding.

For reflection

What are in your rebuilding could use some extra support? What kinds of support have you tried? What is working? What isn't?

What is missing in your support for your rebuilding? What might help fill those gaps?

If there are supports you are using that are not proving to be as helpful as you would like, what other options could you try as replacements?

What is one additional support option you are willing to try today?

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