Broken things can be mended. Like my coffee mug with the reattached handle. And my old cashmere sweater with the stitched moth holes. Broken things can also just be broken. Like my refrigerator which is currently leaking all over the kitchen floor.
You probably know where this is going. This is a blog about recovery after all.
I like to remind myself that broken things can be fixed. I am sitting at a round oak table that I found in the bowels of an antique store. The owner practically gave it to me when I said I liked the shape of it. I brought it home and stripped it, sanded it, stained and polyurethaned it. It is heavy and beautiful and has the most glorious curled feet. For so many years it sat in the basement of that shop covered in green paint. You couldn’t even see those strong, lovely feet.
But recognizing an objects worth and fixing it are sometimes not enough. The motherboard on my refrigerator has been replaced yet the temperature continues to rise. I defrosted a frozen drain hole and the ice block returned. I superglued the fraying rubber gasket – it ripped some more.
People can be broken too. But unlike objects, people are not irreparably damaged. Yes, some may have been born with “operating quirks.” Some continuously fall prey to their own bad choices. And some peoples broken-ness can be blamed on others.
The Japanese term for embracing imperfection is called “wabi sabi.” I like this philosophy; I find delight in crooked teeth, aging faces, scarred body parts. Who really wants airbrushed perfection? But admittedly some things are not just worn, but broken. The Japanese have a solution for that as well: kintsugi. Kintsugi is the practice of using gold joinery to reattach broken pottery. Gold joinery to illuminate imperfection! The resulting pieces are a work of redemptive art. Like my round table. Like the people I have met in recovery.
But how come some people never make it to that redemptive place? I believe it is simply a matter of running out of time. The time needed to be pulled out of that “dark basement,” the time needed to have their broken-ness acknowledged, and the time needed to reassemble themselves.
Today I am thinking of all the lovely people who ran out of time. When I was little my father would ask me “what kind of wings would you like when you become an angel?… gold, silver or copper?” (Disclaimer: my dad never believed in Christianity. He was most likely drawn to the Pre-Raphaelite imagery.) I always answered copper. I preferred the warm shimmer.
I know this is a silly wish – but if there is a heaven, I hope that when I arrive the golden wings are reserved for the broken people – the ones who either fixed themselves while on earth or were mercifully repaired when they ascended. Kintsugi Angels.