It has been an interesting couple of months for me as I have prepared to give a very personal speech to my Toastmasters speaking group. It has been emotional and has taken more bravery than I realized it would to put this out into to world.
I had a past coaching client who was quite sick with some very debilitating chronic illnesses. As we created a wellness vision for her I encouraged her to think of an image she could print out that would be empowering to her when she looked at it each day. She introduced me to a very unique and ancient Japanese technique called Kintsugi, the repairing of broken pottery. As she described to me the meaning behind a Kintsugi for her, it was as though she could see herself in a new light, even with chronic illness. She could see all of the scars. She could see all of the ways that her life was different than it used to be. She could see the grandmother she wanted to be, but was stuck being the grandmother her illness forced her to be. And yet, she was still able to find the beauty in who she was. I have to give her credit for inspiring me with the idea of the kintsugi.
The most rewarding part of coaching is being able to hear your amazing stories and ideas and how you conquer the challenges in your individual lives. It is inspiring! In an attempt to honor those whom I have coached who have been able to embrace their scars and their imperfections and to be proud of who they are in their own skin, I would like to share an incredibly personal and precious part of my life journey with you.
It is written here in the format of a speech, but if you would prefer to see the actual video of me giving the speech, please visit my YouTube channel.
I want to take you on a journey today. A journey that is deeply emotional. A journey that is painful and personal. A journey that is best illustrated by an ancient Japanese art called kintsugi.
Kintsugi, is the art of fixing broken pottery. Rather than rejoin ceramic pieces with a camouflaged adhesive, the Kintsugi technique uses a special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold. Once completed, beautiful seams of gold glint in the conspicuous cracks of ceramic wares, giving a one-of-a-kind appearance to each “repaired” piece.
This unique method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. It often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with a new look and giving it a second life.
Journal Entry: June 16, 2013
I’m broken today. Most days I can convince myself I’m happy and manage life pretty well. Other times, like today, I realize that deep down inside I am truly broken.
My hardest struggle is feeling that people really don’t care about me. Maybe I can’t believe that they could really love me? Or maybe they really don’t. Or maybe they really don’t know how to show it. Or maybe if they tried to care I pushed them away so they stopped caring.
Maybe the same thing happened with you. I struggle with faith so much. Are you really there? Why can’t I feel you or see you? Am I broken?
If you’re there…stick with me…? Please?
If you’re there…will you love me?
Around the time of this journal entry, I began going to therapy to try to figure out why life was so devastatingly hard for me.
At one of my first therapy sessions my therapist took me through a long, religious, visualization. She had me imagine being in a very relaxing atmosphere and creating a reality where I could be at peace. She then had me walk to an area where I stood in front of Christ himself. I was instructed to hand him my heart and allow him to heal it and then hand it back to me.
At the completion of this exercise she asked, “What happened for you in this experience?” “…Nothing,” I responded flatly. “And why do you think nothing happened?” To which I responded, “Probably for two reasons. One, I don’t know if I believe and two, I feel like I have this deep, dark, heavy, black hole inside of me and I don’t know what it is. How can you give something away when you don’t even know what it is?”
After a lot of reading and soul searching I began to discover that this deep pit inside of me could be given a description. I began to call it abandonment. As I searched deeper in to my life and learned about these challenges with abandonment, I began to realize the years of experiences that had slowly sculpted this reality for me.
- Some came from self abandonment from being made fun of, so I hid myself.
- Some came from religious cultural abandonment. I was loved and praised when I was doing everything right, but I felt ashamed and unloved when I didn’t feel like that cultural mold was something I agreed with anymore.
- Some came from emotional abandonment. When you don’t see the world like everyone else and can’t openly express your true feelings and be accepted…it’s lonely.
- Some came from my parents divorce when it felt in the moment like the people who you love the most are the ones who hurt you and abandon you.
- And some came from God. I had crafted such an unhealthy dependency on God, there’s no way it wouldn’t crumble in abandonment at some point.
So what even is abandonment and why is it so devastatingly painful? Abandonment deals with loss, but it’s different than loss when a loved one passes away. Loss from abandonment cuts all the way through to the self. You were left by choice. You lose not just your loved one, but also your core belief in yourself. You doubt that you are lovable and acceptable and you turn on yourself.
I remember one of my most painful days. I walked into my room after a long day at school. I felt so miserable. Before I could even make it to my bed, tears began to stream down my face. My knees buckled and I crumbled to the floor. My heart clenched in pain and I cried out in sobbing devastation for hours. I was broken. All the way to my core.
You might be wondering where one might go from here? How do you even begin to pick up the pieces?
I don’t completely know the answer. It took years of hard work but I began by using a visualization technique that changed everything for me. Through this technique I would go back in my past and uncover all the incredibly painful memories I had hid away and I would relive them in my mind; experiencing again the pain, moment by moment. But this time it was a little different. As I revisited my younger self in these experiences I brought along my older self for comfort. “What’s wrong?” I would ask my younger self. “Why are you crying?” After she explained the situation, and the hurt, and the fear, I would hold her in my arms and tell her that everything was going to be okay. I was there, and I loved her and was never going to leave her.
Memory after painful memory and piece after painful broken piece I began to rebuild. First with camouflage adhesive to build up enough strength and then slowly I began to dust those scars with powdered gold. I began to let the world see me for who I was and what I believed. I began to stand for something. I began to believe that I had a purpose in the world and I had something to say.
The result of my masterly crafted kinsugi was breath taking. I became deeply proud of the woman my life had shaped me into becoming. My scars and imperfections were glistening with gold for the whole world to see and I felt that I had a chance at a second life.
Journal Entry: June 23, 2016
After three years of my deepest heart wrenching struggle, it feels almost heavenly to be able to say…no matter what happens today or tomorrow or years down the road…I will be okay.