This post of part of a series on the subtle gifts of kintsugi gold. In this series, I am sharing some of the gifts I have discovered in the gold of my own healing in the hopes that it will help others identify the quiet gifts available to them. All people are different, however, and all forms of brokenness and healing are likewise unique, so my experience may or may not resemble yours. I hope it can still be a starting point for searching for and discovering your own gifts hidden in your healed scars.
Once upon a time, I came into this world knowing who I was, what I wanted and needed, what I liked and what I didn't.
As I grew, that knowing got clouded and obscured by the expectations of parents, family, friends, culture, religion, and more. I learned a set of rules about what I had to do and be and think and say and feel and want, and learned what couldn't do and be and think and say and feel and want.
These rules became a cage to keep my safe, make me acceptable, and make me lovable. But they were a cage nonetheless.
The self that I had been born to be was buried under the weight of these expectations and locked behind the walls of the rules, until she was almost invisible.
One benefit of my world falling apart a few years ago was that it also did serious damage to my cage. In the wake of all of the destruction, the cage's purported safety was shown to be the lie that it was, and its authority began to crumble, leaving holes for the winds of freedom to begin blowing through the debris.
Questioning the cage
With everything in ruins around me, I no longer had the energy to keep myself so deeply buried. Parts of myself long hidden began to emerge into the light and breathe deeply of the fresh wind blowing through the dust and ashes of my cage.
I noticed that the attempts to live by others' expectations in order win their love and acceptance were often the very things that ultimately pushed them away as they kept me small, inauthentic, and resentful of the cage that bound me.
I began questioning every rule and every expectation that I had absorbed, testing them against the inner me that was emerging to see what felt authentically helpful and what was just oppressive.
Those things which seemed genuinely helpful I kept as guidelines to smooth relationships with others. Those that were oppressive (or simply unnecessary) I began discarding.
Discovering new vistas
With each bar of the cage that I removed, my inner landscape grew larger and my sense of what was possible increased.
So many things that I had dismissed as impossible began to look less so in the light spilling through the gaps in the walls of my former cage.
As I began to reacquaint myself with the me that had been so deeply buried, old dreams began to breathe new life, and new dreams began to unfurl into realms long denied by the cage.
I realized that I had so many more choices than I had ever dreamed.
Making new choices
Many of the new choices that I began making were external ones, and some of these required some trial and error as I needed to explore and refine my own preferences after suppressing them for so long. But as big as those changes have been in some cases, they are only the tip of the iceberg.
Most of these choices were internal ones as I re-discovered my own power to choose healing, choose to let go of old resentments, choose to forgive, and choose to grow. But these inner choices, while hidden in many ways, were the catalysts that drove the external ones into being.
Like Viktor Frankl, I learned that "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."
With each repeated choice to grow and to heal, the winds of inner freedom continued to blow ever more strongly, and the ruins of my former life became useful building blocks for creating something new.
Building on freedom
Building a life based on a foundation of freedom to be the person I was born to be did not, of course, mean that I could ignore all obligations to others or drop all of my responsibilities.
We are all interconnected, and even as I expanded my life to make space for all of who I am, I still needed to make space for others.
The difference is that when I approached my obligations and responsibilities to others as natural outcomes of choices that I had consciously made, I could live into them in a completely different way than when they felt like externally imposed bars of a cage.
My inner freedom to choose my attitude made even those things more bearable. And I chose (again and again) to use it all as fuel for growth and continued healing.
The winds of freedom continue to blow through my life as I continue to work at questioning the remnants of my cage, exploring the depths of who I really am, and living into the new choices and options that I've discovered are possible.
It's one more gift of kintsugi gold that has developed (and continues to emerge) as I heal.
In what ways have the expectations of others or the "rules" of our culture dictated your choices? Have you ever had moments where you experienced those expectations and rules as a cage that required you to deny the person you really are?
In what ways have you learned to shed the expectations of others as you have grown into yourself? Have times of brokenness ever served as catalysts for this process in you?
To what degree have you embraced your freedom to choose your attitude, your healing, and your growth as you have faced life's challenges? In the moments that you have done this, how has affected your sense of freedom even in the face of those challenges?
What winds of freedom are blowing in your life now, offering you the opportunity to make new, more expansive choices in service to the person you were born to be? How might you offer those winds more room to blow?
Other posts in this series
- The subtle gifts of kintsugi gold
- Uncovering hidden strength: A gift of kintsugi gold
- A fresh perspective on challenges: A gift of kintsugi gold
- The hardest kind of compassion: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Breaking the tyranny of emotions: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Curiosity of the heart: A gift of kintsugi gold
- The quiet courage that matters most: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Savoring life's sweetness: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Taking the right responsibility: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Reshaping the story: A gift of kintsugi gold
- Clearer vision in the mirror: A gift of kintsugi gold
- A bedrock of trust: A gift of kintsugi gold
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