Category Archives: Coping

Cracked Pots, Mended

I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for days to perfect this post on imperfection. Yes, I see the irony in that statement. I need to let go of the struggle for perfection and get on with it. Certainly, I don’t want grammatical errors in my writing, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about life and all that comprises it. I need to remember that perfection in life is more fungible than many of us realize.

Kintsugi Pottery Honors Imperfection

Hand built and hand-painted ceramic bowl broken during the firing process was repaired by Kintsugi. Created by Ruthann Hurwitz, The Village Potter

Ruthann Hurwitz [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

One of my favorite reminders to hold an expansive view of perfection is Kintsugi, a style of Japanese ceramic repair dating from the 15th century. In Kintsuge, a ceramist repairs broken or cracked pottery with silver or gold, and sometimes other materials. The repairs make the ceramic unique, bringing undeniable beauty from what had been broken. It becomes more beautiful for having been broken. It is tedious, but ultimately exquisite.

This style of ceramic repair is influenced by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect; and mottainai, a feeling of regret when something is wasted; as well as mushin, the acceptance of change. Kintsugi reminds us that our broken places can be sources of goodness and beauty.

The boy and The Water Jugs

According to folklore, a boy had to carry water a long distance every day in two jugs that hung from a pole across his shoulders. One jug was whole, the other cracked. The cracked jug was only half full each day when he reached home, while the other jug was still filled to the brim.

As the boy trudged along one day, the jugs begin to speak (as they can in folktales).  The uncracked jug boasted about its perfection, saying,

“I am such a good and perfect jug. I do my work just right.  You, on the other hand, are lousy and worthless.  Your purpose in life is to carry water from the well back to the village but day after day, year after year, only half of your water makes it home.  You’re always going to be like this.  I think that somebody should get a new jug and replace you.” 

The cracked jug was devastated.  It called out to God , “Why have you done this to me? Why is my jug cracked?  I am no good.”  The boy heard the conversation and the jug’s anguished plea to God.  He responded to the jug, saying,

“Yes, you are cracked.  I’ve known that for a long, long time.  But your crack doesn’t make you worthless.  Look at the side of the road below your partner jug. It is dry and barren, and nothing grows there.  Now, look at the side of the road below you.  Do you see the line of wildflowers all along the road?  They flourish because the water that drips slowly from your cracked jug gives life to what would not otherwise exist all along the road we travel.  Through the crack in your otherwise perfect jug, you have brought life and beauty to an otherwise desolate and barren stretch of road.  I will not exchange you for another pot, nor will I let anyone discount the good that your crack has done

The Wisdom of IMperfection

Life keeps reminding me that I need not follow the stern internal voices calling for a particular type of perfection. That striving too hard for perfection kills the joy of life and relationships. That taking a deep breath and experiencing the goodness of “imperfection” elicits gratitude. That what I consider an imperfection or broken place in my life may be a way for me to bring beauty, healing, and wholeness to others.

After all, as Leonard Cohen says, “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” (Anthem, by Leonard Cohen).

Of Cucumbers, Pickles and People

Roses and pickles“When does a cucumber become a pickle?” asks a Louise Penny character trying to figure out when her happy boy turned into a surly teenager.

When did my heart strengthen?  Sometime between March and August of this year, my heart returned from an almost fatal level of heart failure to nearly normal functioning thanks to a specialized pacemaker, newly available medication and cardiac rehabilitation.

Awesome.  Amazing.  Fantastic.  I’m grateful.  This is my best hope come true.

Exactly when did my heart strengthen so much?  When had it weakened in the first place?  Like a cucumber becoming a pickle; each was a process I barely noticed, a change I couldn’t date.

At what moment is a runner ready for a marathon?  When do patterns become habits and habits a way of life?  At what point does a student become an artist or a character become rooted in honesty and integrity?  At what point does healing occur or relationships fray too much to be repaired?

No one can say when, during his years in prison camp, the late John McCain changed from a hard-partying naval brat into a man of courage and honor. It was a process.  No one can say exactly when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford became a strong enough survivor to tell her story of sexual assault to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee considering Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court.  It happened over years of hard work and healing.

We change our clothes in minutes.  On the other hand, internal change–physical, emotional, spiritual, and attitudinal–happens over time.

When does a cucumber become a pickle?  Cucumbers become bread and butter pickles in a week.  Dill pickles need six months.

For pickles and people, the finished flavor is a matter of time in the brine.  If we soak ourselves in distrust and disdain towards others, we become judgmental and sour people.  If we repeatedly respond with bitterness or entitlement, we cannot help but develop a nature of such attitudes.

But if we repeatedly behave kindly, we become people who instinctively respond with kindness.  If we act repeatedly with courage, honor and integrity we develop character imbued with these qualities.  If we intentionally pause each day to give thanks, we become gracious, grateful people.

The good news is that we can dump out our brine and start afresh.  Choose wisely and trust the process.

Ten Tips to Keep from Showing Your Feathers on Thanksgiving

In the hope that you and I will not add to the number of turkeys present at our Thanksgiving feasts, here’s a reprise of my Top Ten Thanksgiving Tips .

  1. Ask others about their life more than you talk about yours.
  2. Say, “It’s good to see you,” instead of, “Wow, you’ve gained weight.”
  3. Ask the host(s) periodically, “May I be helpful in some way?”
  4. Say, “You look fantastic” instead of, “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight.”
  5. Ask someone in a painful life circumstance, “How are you doing these days?”  Most people appreciate the inquiry, even if they choose not to share.
  6. Cut up your food, not people.
  7. Advocate for children not to be pressured for hugs and kisses.
  8. Avoid the turkeys in the room – except the bird on your plate.
  9. If you become a turkey, apologize and eat humble pie.
  10. Most important:  Put a pebble in your pocket and, each time you touch it, give thanks for something. Gratitude is the best antidote for feathers.

    Photo credit: http://bpdbd.net/turkey-bird/