Kintsugi: Admiring the broken pieces that have been remade

A broken bowl repaired using the kintsugi method

Several weeks ago I heard an interview with chef and “wellness writer” Candice Kumai in which she talked about the Japanese art of kintsugi. I enjoyed the interview enough and I have a fondness for East Asian cuisine so I bought her book Kintsugi Wellness, which is a guide to living what she sees as a life based on the idea of kintsugi with a cookbook of about 150 pages in the middle. The book is both beautifully written and beautifully presented.

Kumai described in both the interview and her book that kintsugi was the practice that was used to repair expensive vases, etc. that were broken, and then she related this to dealing with broken parts of your life. I can’t do her explanation justice, so I’m going to let her speak for herself:

The practice of kintsugi – repairing broken vessels by sealing the cracks with lacquer and carefully dusting them with gold powder – is a remarkable art. The Japanese believe the golden cracks make the pieces even more precious and valuable.

It’s beautiful to think of this practice as a metaphor for your life, to see the broken, difficult, or painful parts of you as radiating light, gold, and beauty. Kintsugi teaches you that your broken places make you stronger and better than ever before. When you think you are broken, you can pick up the pieces, put them back together, and learn to embrace the cracks. – Candice Kumai in Kintsugi Wellness, page 4.

I’m feeling a lot better these days. I’m not a hundred percent, but I have more focus, more motivation, and I’m genuinely feeling happy most of the time. I am, however, not quite the same person that I was six months ago when I needed to scale back my time at work, or a year ago when I felt perfectly healthy. 

I took up meditation and have now meditated for at least ten minutes every day for more than 150 days in a row. I think it’s made me a calmer person.

I did some different types of therapy this time that helped me to deal with some of the underlying issues of my recurring depression, which has changed how I view myself.

I’ve grown closer to several people in my life because of my disclosure about my depression and because of how supportive certain people were. You know who you are and I thank you.

And yes, I’m on medication, which I think I finally started feeling the benefits of this week. My doctor switched what I was on about a month ago so that time frame is about right.

Being more open about depression also gave me a chance to see some of the systemic issues that need to be dealt with. I came pretty close to losing my shit in my managers office (I think she did too) when my case manager du jour (I’ve had, I believe six different ones since October)  from the outside company that that was suppose to facilitate my short-term disability coverage (for scaled back work hours) said that they wanted to know when I was going to be better, like I had a broken leg instead of depression. I wonder if she had any clue how many times from late last summer until just a couple of weeks ago I wanted the answer to that very question. When I’m closer to being what feels like a hundred percent I want to find ways to help change that system. 

I’ve been broken in the past and when better I just wanted to move on. This time, however, I’m going to try to remember to admire and embrace the cracks and the gold dust that has filled them as part of the repair.

Image courtesy of Ruthann Hurwitz under a CC-BY-SA license

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