once upon a time, my favourite cup broke into pieces. my brother had given it to me, it once had belonged to someone he loved. the handle was broken off already. he didn’t want to throw it away, so when he moved houses, i took it. i came to love it, with it’s broken handle and it became my favourite cup. and then, one day, it fell of the kitchen board and broke into many sharp edged pieces.
once upon a time, my relating really deeply got hurt. something within me broke into pieces. not only once, but many times. my heart, my trust, my favourite feelings of being accepted, nourished, appreciated broke into pieces. the experiences i had with other human beings, with school mates, colleagues, women, older men had left brokenness in my relating to others. the sharp edges of the pieces were or still are able to hurt myself and others. i became overly cautious and overly mistrusting.
i took the shattered cup and carefully collected the pieces. i couldn’t let go. not yet. i wanted it to not have happened. i was angry with the world. i couldn’t throw it away. even the shards were still important to me. i grabbed a tissue and wrapped them, making sure none of them got lost. i knew it would take a while until i could face them again. i hid them away in a cupboard, somewhere between my “projects” — things i knew i wanted or needed to finish and take care of, once there was the right time. but everytime i had my morning coffee, the not-being-there-ness of my cup was painful.
though i tried to hide it or better not perceive it, my relational brokenness from past experiences was and is affecting my everyday life. i tried and try to push it into the outside world, blame others for difficult relationships rather than accepting that it is also a part of me in the relational space as well. but it was/is still there — for some obviously broken, for some just weird, and for some very understandable, relatable or even loveable.
so i let it sit for a while. hidden in my project corner of my cupboard as an “open gestalt” — haunting me. was i to throw it away? could it be fixed? what if i screwed it up and it just got worse and then i had to throw it away? why was i so fixated on it? why was it so important to me? couldn’t i just grow up and get a grip? one day i was ready to have another look. i took it out of the cupboard and placed the shards on my altar. out in the open, to be seen every day. i was curious as of what would happen if i just accepted and faced it.
it was quite some work to become aware of the nature of the brokenness in me, resonating with yours. as well as it was work to get to know the nature of the edges, how they hurt me and others, what triggered them and how i could — over time — sand them with resilience and courage, real appreciation and warmth from others. still, they were shards. scattered. i couldn’t even remember how i was before, not hurting. how the whole, alive being i was felt like.
i had one more go of trying to throw it away, but i failed. when i finally decided to recreate the cup out of the shards it once consisted of, i decided i would repair it with gold. i would appreciate the brokenness, i would appreciate its course of life, the falling off the kitchen board, the broken handle. i would make it visible, since it couldn’t be undone anyway, only reframed. so i got all the necessary material including two component glue and putty, urushi (a japanese varnish) and metal powder. i would just do it.
i had almost given up on real and deep working relationships when i understood that others are broken too — in different but similar ways. that our whole way of relating to the world was broken. that there was no way to hide it, to throw it away. even the garbage, the trash, the waste is part of our brokenness of relating to life. there is no way out. it can’t be undone. but i could reframe. i could do my part and apply warmth and dialectical thinking onto the sharp edges of my inner brokenness. this is my take on the two components that are needed to bring our parts together again.
when i had lovingly sanded the edges of the cup until i could run my fingers across them without getting hurt anymore, i checked whether the cup would be able to be recreated from the pieces i still had. it could be done — apart from the handle that was broken off before the cup came to me. i mixed the glue, arranged the pieces and patiently glued them together. piece by piece, minutes of holding on to them, waiting. then i filled the gaps and the chipped of parts with putty, washing off what was too much. slowly the cup became visible again.
i realized that othering didn’t work. i realized that i wasn’t holding the one truth, i needed to consider that my view and perspective on things were only one part of the puzzle. that i was actually a piece of the broken whole and my sharp edges needed to be sanded in order to be able to relate again, making it possible for me and you to see the larger picture. i need you in order to perceive it, i need you in order to keep becoming. we have forgotten how the whole looks like. if we ever knew. i needed to consider that i wasn’t separate from the whole, that i was actually a process in time, becoming aware of our breaking and healing, loving the brokenness that with its sharp edges hurts us and we can become aware of what wants to be looked at and appreciated.
in the end i even managed to recreate a handle. clumsy — for it is not my profession nor hobby — i got a grip. with finesse i painted the filled fissures and rifts with varnish and afterwards dusted them with brass powder. after polishing them they became shining and glowing. now the cup just needs to sit and be polished again and again for some time. you can tell it’s been broken. you can tell i did it the first time. you can tell someone loved this piece so much, they took care of it in a very different way then we normally do with broken cups.
so while repairing my cup i integrated huge parts of my own brokenness. may this article be the glue and putty i bring for you to become curious how you can integrate parts of yours. we’re all broken. our systems are broken. there actually might well be no such thing as individual brokenness. but we can look for the components that help us relate again, the components that fill the cracks, after we let the light shine onto the long dark tea-time of the soul. the light that lets the now healed fractures gleam without leaving undisposable waste and unfinished projects hidden away while blaming others.
May we relate in a fundamentally different, warm way, that is able to hold the paradox while observing itself. If you’re interested in our ways of working, you are so welcome to connect.
thanks again to
- Fraendi for being the ones to consciously and deliberately walk alongside with care. i love you, i love our work and our developmental space.
- Nora Bateson for her work and community building and holding on with integrity. Quite some of the wording around brokenness you find here is hers.
- Otto Laske for his work and dedication, integration, research and rigour.
- Jeroen Vermeer for being a true partner in developmental crime, encouraging and withnessing my growth and path.
- and all you bunch of wonderful people: Phoebe Tickell, Alexandra Robinson, Ümit Konuray, Laurence Currie-Clark, Gen Zendahl, Henry Andrews, Aida Shibli, Alma Omega Maegan Melissa just to name some of you.
A deep bow to all of you for being wholesome companions on the way!
Originally published on Medium, January 25