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Kintsugi: Beauty in the Broken

Like many of you, my to-do list is longer than achievable in a given day. My husband is traveling again. School is about to start, bringing a wave of excitement, nerves, tears, and a plethora of bank-depleting trips to the store. I stand in the kitchen at 6:30 in the evening with my laptop propped open on the counter trying to wrap up an important presentation, my kids are chatting with their dad on the phone when the fire alarm goes off, the oven begins smoking and my 9-year-old yells, “Dinner is ready.” At that moment, work-life balance feels manically impossible.

After serving up what was salvageable, so the kids do not starve, I go to my bedroom to regroup, which on this day means ugly cry. Sitting on my bed, crying over thoughts about how I need to do better and get my act together, feeling crushingly broken, an a-ha moment breaks through my pity party.

Feeling broken, damaged, and useless, I remember learning about a Japanese art technique called Kintsugi, where broken ceramics are lovingly restored to unimaginable beauty. Artisans use lacquer and gold pigments to piece shattered ceramic back together. Every Kintsugi piece is unique, every piece has its own story, and the pieces become more valuable than they were before they were broken.

How often are we like ceramic? We feel broken; we feel like we are not living up to our potential or that we are not as functional as we intended to be. It is so easy to dismiss parts of ourselves, to allow moments of negative self-talk to convince us that we are not good enough and to spend time reflecting on all that we are not.

Instead, consider that people are like Kintsugi pieces. We are all unique, we have different stories, we are broken in different places, but feeling broken does not negate our beauty or our worth. Buyers and admirers holding a Kintsugi vessel do not hyper-focus on one section of broken ceramic – instead, they take in the entire piece as a single work of art. We can stop focusing on the fractures and instead focus on where we are doing well, where we have been broken but repaired with pure gold, and recognize that we are more valuable because of the growth necessitated by our challenges and life lessons.

Wayne Dyer said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Change the way you see a challenge; this is an opportunity. Change the way you see a failure; this is an occasion to learn. Throughout our lives, we are all going to make mistakes, put too much on the to-do list, burn dinner, or feel like having an ugly cry as we regroup. These are evidence of our quest for growth.

You are a wonderfully made Kintsugi piece – appreciate the cracks because that is where you are lovingly joined back together with gold.

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