The welcome (and unwelcome) transformation of healing

One of my kintsugi-style circle pendants in a 30 mm setting.


Kintsugi is a beautiful art that not only restores usefulness to broken things, but it does so in ways that add beauty and value with its seams of gold or other precious metals. This combination of repair, restoration, and art can transform a common cup or bowl into a prized possession.

But what it cannot do is return the broken piece to its original state. It is now unalterably and unarguably something new, even though it retains most (if not all) of the original material and fulfills the same function.

The same is true for us. The healing of our broken places restores us, and it adds beauty, richness, and depth to our lives, but we are never again the same as we were before we were wounded.

This is very easy to see as I make my kintsugi-style circle pendants. After I’ve made the original circle of polymer clay and cured it, I have to freeze it in order to make it brittle enough to break it.

Because of this brittleness, it is not uncommon for there to be tiny shards that are formed as part of the breaking process. These shards are so small that they cannot effectively be worked into the repair, so they are discarded before I even begin the repair work. This can be seen in the final piece in places where the repair line widens somewhere along the crack or along the edge of the circle.

Once I perform the repair and re-cure it, the addition of the gold or silver clay that makes the repair means that the repaired piece has been distorted from its original form. With the heart-shaped pendants, this is seldom an issue since a little careful shaping and some sanding at the finish can bring it back to a “close enough” heart-shape to pass.

The circles, however, are not so easily approximated since they must fit into a fixed setting. The original circle is formed to fit precisely into the setting, so the addition of the repair material means the finished piece no longer fits into the place where it belongs. I must carefully sand down the edges in order to make it fit again while keeping its round shape.

This, too, is much like life.

When I have been so deeply wounded in some way that I feel broken by what has happened to me, healing does restore me and make me functional again. It does add beauty and richness and depth. But I am never again the same.

There are always pieces of me—often in the form of beliefs or habits or relational patterns—that broke off and are never re-attached.

I never quite fit back into the confines of the life I had before the brokenness and healing happened. I am changed. I am no longer quite who I was, even though much of me is still recognizable as the person I used to be.

It is not unusual to find the people around us trying to sand away at our edges to try to force-fit us back into the place we used to fit into. While they may celebrate our healing, our changed shape is not always quite so welcome. They may be upset at finding that there are pieces of who we once were that are no longer there in our new, healed form.

In fact, we ourselves may grieve for those lost pieces and mourn that we can no longer squeeze into our old, comfortable confines. It can be incredibly tempting to try to shave off parts of ourselves and pretend that those lost pieces still exist—both for our own comfort and for that of others.

Unlike my polymer clay pieces, which can be (relatively) easily shaped with some good sandpaper, we are not so easy to re-shape back into our old forms. The pieces that are lost are truly lost. We truly are not the same shape we used to be. We can pretend otherwise, but we know that we no longer fit.

The journey of healing is one that restores us to life and one that demands that we step outside the confines of who we were into a bigger space. This is part of what makes healing so challenging. It never leaves us as we were.

Can you think of places in your life where healing from a deep brokenness caused you to be so changed that you no longer fit into the confines of who you used to be? Is there healing happening in your life now that is reshaping you? In what ways are you embracing the change that brings even when it’s hard to let go of what used to be?


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9 thoughts on “The welcome (and unwelcome) transformation of healing

  • February 3, 2014 at 7:22 am
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    This is beautiful…painful (of course) and beautiful…

    • February 3, 2014 at 8:32 am
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      Thank you, Callie!

  • February 3, 2014 at 11:02 am
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    So interesting… loved ones are like guardians to us, but often feel uncomfortable when we expand – you stated this so beautifully. I so appreciate this lens, because it can help me navigate some waters that I am currently in.

    Transformation is vital in the integration and evolution of our soul. Instead of growing distant (as i have been) I can clearly se how living with love and grace can inspire others to honor their own ‘cracks’ and fill them with gold.

    Thank you for your insight.

    • February 3, 2014 at 12:23 pm
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      Thanks so much for sharing, Lily! I struggle so much with staying open and connected with those who are uncomfortable with my changes because I’m already dealing with so much internal resistance to my changes (most of the time) that the external pressure feels like more than I can bear. I appreciate your comment about how staying connected with ways that are filled with love and grace can inspire them to do their own healing work, which will change them as well. I would do well to follow in those steps more often. Thank you so much for pointing that out and challenging me (unintentionally) to do better with this.

  • February 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm
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    I agree, what a beautiful post, Kenetha; for me, it is one of your finest. “It never leaves us as we were” completely captures the entire post as well as the kintsugi analogy. Once again, your post is timely as I leave “some stuff” behind and open myself to now. It is not grief that I feel but more of a grateful curiosity and a “wakeful” energy as I clean old tools so I may begin again. Coming soon to a blog post near you! As always, thank you, Kenetha.
    Karen

    • February 3, 2014 at 9:01 pm
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      Thank you so much, Karen! That is high praise and is so meaningful to me! I am glad that my post spoke to your current situation so deeply, and I look forward to reading your forthcoming blog post about the process you are going through. I love the idea of “wakeful energy” as you clean old tools to begin again. That sounds like a wonderful place to be as you shed old stuff. Blessings to you!

  • February 4, 2014 at 9:25 am
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    This is a wonderful post! I’ve just discovered your blog. I’ve been thinking a lot about these things since my brother passed away six weeks ago. As I adjust to my new world and begin healing through the loss, I find that I must be more truly myself now. I’m not sanding myself down for others. I am able to express my feelings without fear of another’s reaction; I am able to ask for what I need in order to feel safe; I don’t say “yes” to things I used to accept in order not to rock the boat. I am more authentically myself. Life is short, no time for faking it regardless of the reason.
    Thanks for the lovely food for thought! It gave me a new and creative context for my recent changes.

    • February 4, 2014 at 11:23 am
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      Thank you so much for your comment, Melanie! I am very sorry to hear about your recent loss of your brother. It sounds like you are using this heartache and grief in very positive and life-transforming ways in your life, but I’m sure the grief of his passing is still very much with you. I have found this image of kintsugi to be a very powerful and helpful metaphor in my own life as I continue to move toward greater healing, and I am pleased to hear that it has been helpful to you as well. I’m honored that you took the time to share a bit of your story with me, and I wish you comfort as you continue on your own journey. Blessings!

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