Do you sometimes feel as if you are surrounded on all sides by broken things?
Things that once were whole, and could not be kept that way. Things that fell. Things that were knocked too hard. Things that you tried so hard to hold together, but which seemed determined to pull themselves into pieces. Things you stood and promised to bind yourself to, bind yourself with, but which unravelled like a slippery satin ribbon despite all your desperate fiddling and knotting and tearful pleading. Things that undid themselves unseen and unhindered while you were busy doing other things. Things that sent themselves flying against the wall while you cried, rocking yourself and begging for them to stop it, please, stop it.
Marriages. Promises. Minds. Hearts. Spirits. Resolves. Families. Plans. Hopes. Confidences. Trusts. Dreams. Agreements. Contracts. Covenants.
Childhoods. Brotherhoods. Sisterhoods. Parenthoods. Grandparenthoods.
Some were not your fault. Some were. Some you would’ve stopped if you could. Some you helped. Some you knew were inevitable. And you hated yourself for thinking so. Some you would’ve died rather than see go that way, would’ve rather it was you that was broken, that broke, that had it broken upon you.
The pieces of things that were once worth more to you than life itself. Those whole, hoped for, wondrous things that were answers to prayer, blessings, fulfilled dreams to you, but now which sit in drawers and pockets, pricking you with their sharp corners when you reach in for something you needed to work out a knot in something, stinging your palms and fingertips and leaving their grit under your nails. Their hems and seams undone, their nails rusted and their edges chipped. Their colours faded. Too precious to ever throw away. Bits of you and all the ones you loved, wished for, wanted, birthed and bound yourself to. Their essence is in the fragments, and every piece is steeped with all the thrill, the fear, the longing and the letting go. Sweet and bitter.
This last few days, we’ve been reunited with our family after six months interstate on the farm, and almost a year on the road. Our four children. Our two grandchildren. Brothers and sisters. My parents, grandparents. Cousins and aunts from an uncles first family, a man long since passed. It was a different homecoming this time. We were all more relaxed. Age, and watching the older ones grow more fragile mellows a person. The thing I noticed the most about this time was how we all seem to not be trying quite so hard. We seem tireder, more worn out, but yet we all looked and sounded more like ourselves than ever before. It was quite remarkable.
As I reflected on the weekend I began to understand why our conversations were so markedly different this time, particularly between my brother and I. It seems for once, we were not talking about our discontent and what we’d achieved to alleviate it. We were talking about what we’d lost, and what it felt like to let it go.
We were talking about acceptance.
Of self, and of others. Of all that is ours, and of what we would never have. Of what we lost. Of what we found in the losing. And we spoke of the broken things.
In fact, we were surrounded by the broken things.
And it was, we decided, more than enough.
Our hearts, and our minds, we mused, have been broken. And yet here we are, all loved, and at last also capable of love, of self and others, which is probably more important. Our relationships, ambitions, and aspirations have been broken. Marriages we tried to help that could not be saved. Souls that escaped the mawing throat of death and divorce and addiction and cancer and indescribable loneliness and aloneness with just with the skin we stood up in, a shell of a person remaining behind, yet that was enough to start again with. And all the fragments of all of us, assembled for these few days to make up a joyous mosaic of shared history and experiences, places, times, tragedies and celebrations. We compared our salvaged bits, like trophies. We held our pieces up side by side along the broken edges to find they almost got together, well enough. Acceptance.
You were not there for me. we lamented, you were not there for me, but you are here now, and that is enough. All the broken pieces of us and all the things we were not able to make good, to put right or to fix up, all laid out, edge to jagged edge, and it was all right, it was just fine. Yes, it was very good.
Imperfection is hard, because brokenness is pain. But time mellows, and peace comes to all eventually. We can embrace that peace this side of the grave, or after, but sooner or later, accept it we must. Trying to secret away the bits and the chips and the broken shards of failures and shortcomings and disappointments leaves us weary from trying to hide our bulging pockets with hands bruised and grazed by shame. Show me your palms, broken dreamer, all isn’t lost. Gather them all up, don’t lose a single one. There is a day coming when you, like I just did, will lay all your broken things down around you and realise there is beauty in them, and in you. The whole may have been your dream, but that essence remains in each sliver, every shard. There was love there at the beginning, and there is love there still.
Acceptance is brave. Loving all the broken things is brave. Broken things. Yes, even the broken things.
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