Broken is beautiful.
I always dreaded art classes, and escaped them with real relief once they were no longer mandatory. I could never create anything close to the vision I had in mind; every day was an exercise in frustrating exasperation. I stumbled into painting by accident in my third year of college, looking for an easy way to fill up electives.
Just like that, my world broke wide open in the best possible way.
Freed from the structural integrity demanded by pottery and the technical precision required by pen and ink, I discovered how layers, experiments, and accidents could lead me in entirely new directions. More often than not, a so-called mistake became the focal point that set a new piece apart.
For the first time in my life, I fell hopelessly, irredeemably in love with my own messy, imperfectly wonderful creations.
Ironic, then, that I remained so unforgiving about messiness and imperfection within myself for so long– unforgiving about my life, my goals, my family not lining up in an appropriately seamless, showroom-ready fashion.
I hated being a single parent, hated the embarrassment that came with every stranger’s glance at my naked ring finger. I hated being a stepmom, hated being treated like I was fairytale-wicked based on nothing but my title upon introduction at Miss L’s school functions. And as much as I love being able to say that I’m an artist and a writer, I sometimes feel exhausted by blazing new trails, and want to cash it all in for the boring yet predictable cubicle + steady paycheck combo of a traditional job.
And all of this from someone who loves digging through thrift store racks, whose favorite art pieces were rescued from ‘seconds’ tables. Who adamantly preaches about finding your passion, being true to yourself, screwing the naysayers. Shouldn’t I be more evolved?
It’s actually only in the last few years that I’ve been able to appreciate coloring outside the lines– let go of perfectionism in my paintings, and in real life. Instead of glossing over the grim history behind our blended family, looking at us as a whole that includes our less-than-perfect past: cracks and all.
Instead of thinking of my life as broken, thinking of it as beautiful.
There is a form of artwork in Japan that involves artfully fixing pottery in a way that celebrates and accentuates the repairs rather than trying to hide them. More than artistic expression, kintsugi represents an entire philosophy that centers around the idea that broken is beautiful.
We don’t value brokenness in our culture. We aren’t interested in looking beyond imperfect appearances to find the beauty that lies in that imperfection.
But maybe, just maybe, all that history is exactly what makes life interesting. All that messiness. Maybe normal people with normal jobs and normal families only seem normal by comparison to those of us who are scrambling, struggling, imperfectly flawed.
Or maybe we’re all in this together, and we could just stop comparisons entirely. Maybe we could start trying to accept that imperfections, in the right hands and armed with the right philosophy, can become the very qualities that set us awesomely apart.
Some say that kintsugi is an extension of the Japanese aesthetic known as wabi-sabi, beauty that is all the more beautiful for being impermanent and incomplete. The celebration of imperfection.
Ernest Hemingway wrote that the world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
Maybe it’s time to stop hiding our brokenness.
Maybe broken is beautiful.
Oh hey there, struggling stepparent!
Listen, I put together a new website just for high-conflict blended families: Blended Family Frappé. Come on over and join the hundreds of other stepparents who are reclaiming their sanity one Sunday newsletter at a time.