I wake up thinking about Mike. I go to sleep at night thinking about him.
Everything I do every day is shadowed by thoughts of him. He is in my every waking moment. He is never gone from my heart or my mind.
Even as I am enjoying time with friends, even as I am looking forward to an evening with the musician, even as I am finding joy in family or travel or appreciation of the beauty of the place I live, he is there.
Every Hawaiian sunset I witness I wish he were by my side. Every movie I watch I think whether he would have enjoyed it. Going through my shelves the other day I opened a small book of philosophy called The Art of Peace; inside the first page was an inscription I had forgotten about: To My Steph, Love, Mike. My heart ached for seeing it after all this time.
And yes I am grateful for the good memories. I am glad he is in my heart, even though he has also broken it. But the seemingly eternal, internal, chatter I keep hearing over and over again in my mind, every time the flicker of remembering and missing passes through, is mean, and tortuous: I am damaged. I am broken. I am damaged. I am broken. I am damaged. I am broken. I feel taunted and scorned by these thoughts. It’s as if something dark inside of me is trying to point out that no matter what I do with my life, no matter how much enjoyment or goodness I find, I will always suffer for my pain of longing for what no longer is.
The scar left behind by the searing grief is palpable. It is audible. It is raised and itching and painful and loud.
One of those times, this week, the incessant drone of that damaged thought became intolerable. Maybe my psyche was desperate to escape the taunting, because somewhere in that madness my mind suddenly brought forth an image I’d seen some time ago of a broken pottery bowl whose cracks were filled with gold.
So I looked it up again. According to Wikipedia, Kintsugi is “the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum…As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”
Kintsugi places value on an object that has obvious wear and use. The idea is that by highlighting the cracks and repairs one is appreciating the entirety of the life of the object rather than just throwing it on the trash heap. Treating the object and it’s damage with awe and reverence. Just because it is broken doesn’t mean it’s not still a thing of use and beauty - in fact its damage makes it now more valuable. A related aesthetic, also from the Japanese, is called wabi-sabi, which is the embracing of the flawed or imperfect.
I sat quietly, meditating on this concept. In my mind’s eye I imagined somewhere in Japan, an old man shuffling alone around his small shop, slowly and carefully mixing his lacquer and gold dust, painstakingly filling in cracks of an antique pottery bowl, a tear sliding down his cheek. Somewhere, people like him really exist, I thought. Or at least they did. People who not only know how to practice the physical art, but who also know, as they are doing it, the deep philosophical understanding of why it is done. Creating something beautiful from damaged goods; treating human suffering with respect for a life lived fully with all the pain alongside the beauty. This imagined wizened artisan has suffered grief and loss too, I think. And then I see him look up from his work with a wide smile at the sound of his grandchildren’s joyous laughs as they appear for a visit.
He has not been placed on the trash heap either, and still has value in his world.
Everywhere is pain and torment…but also beauty and strength, and life. I am now at work responding to that accusation of damage with a mental image of my broken heart being filled in with gold.
My scars are permanent, but they are a reminder of a beautiful experience, and I will treat them with awe and respect.
They are laden with gold.