I'm the kind of person who thrives on warmth and sunlight, so as much as I love many things about Fall, it's also a bittersweet time of year for me.
Although the hours of daylight have been shortening since the Summer Solstice in June, it's been a gradual shift that I hardly notice until after the Autumn Equinox. All of a sudden it seems as if I can see the hours of darkness encroaching on the sunlight day by day.
Each morning the sun seems to come up even later, and each night brings darkness at ever earlier hours. I can feel the cold and dark of winter bearing down on me.
As much as I talk about the brokenness in our lives as related to the art of kintsugi, the brokenness we often experience has more in common with this gradual encroaching of darkness in the fall than it does with the sudden breaks that occur in the stones I work with.
When I hit my stones with a hammer and chisel, they go from whole to broken in an instant from one blow. In life, our brokenness often comes from things that have been gradually building and encroaching on us for much longer, like the way water can slowly wear its way through stone.
There may be a sudden moment when it all comes to a head in some action or decision that feels like that hammer blow (much like the end of Daylight Savings Time always feels like an abrupt increase in the hours of darkness), but in most situations the tensions, stresses, or pressures that lead to our broken places have been gradually mounting for much longer than we may even realize.
It's only in hindsight that we often clearly see all that led to that final blow as we retrospectively analyze the situation to death trying to figure out what went wrong.
The problem is that this leads us straight into the swamp of self-blame and guilt and shame as we beat ourselves up thinking that we should have noticed something, changed something, or made our escape from the situation sooner. All of that only compounds the brokenness we are experiencing by adding our own hammer blows to the broken shards.
In the end, the broken places in our lives are where our hearts have been broken.
It doesn't matter if was a sudden hammer blow out of the blue or a creeping darkness that gradually encroached upon the light in our lives. It doesn't matter whether there were signs of that brokenness coming ahead of time or not.
Brokenness is brokenness.
Likewise, the good news is that healing is healing. Brokenness can heal and can leave behind kintsugi-like beauty to share with the world around us whether the broken places we are healing from happened suddenly or gradually.
The next time you are tempted to stew in the (inevitably self-critical) analysis of the broken places in your life to determine how or whether or how early you "should" have seen it coming, I hope you'll remember that it doesn't matter.
Darkness encroaches upon light this time of year because that's what it does. Winter comes with its cold and darkness whether I am consciously aware of its approach or not.
Brokenness comes into all of our lives whether we are braced and watching for it or not. (And all that bracing and watching for it generally just stretches out the misery anyway.)
How much more fruitful it is to focus on what we can do to nurture our healing from whatever brokenness we are facing and how we can move forward into a kintsugi life that treasures that healing than it is to look backward for missed signs.
In the end, the healing is where the gift is, so that's what deserves our attention and care.
Where are you focused more on looking backward for early signs of encroaching brokenness rather than on healing?
How might you help yourself refocus onto working toward healing when you are tempted to sink into the swamp of analyzing the past?
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