On Silver Linings and Golden Repairs
I celebrated a birthday this month. Not a monumental one by any means, but another full orbit on this planet nonetheless. Just like with the passing of New Year’s Eve, witnessing the anniversary of my birth propels me toward thought and reflection. Where have I been? Where am I going? Who am I right now?
During times of certainty and prosperity, these questions are often met with joy. I’ve had years like that. Years where my birthday marked assurance of the path that I was traveling. Years where the celebrations felt portentous of great things to come. But not every year delivers such jubilation, as demonstrated by the current moment.
I’ve been experiencing some struggles recently, some challenges that are informed by my acceptance (or lack thereof) of myriad things that I can and cannot control within my body and my surroundings. In the moments of devastation, I find myself asking, Why? What purpose is this serving? Why am I going through this? What is it all for? Why can’t I have something else in front of me? Something else to work with? Something else…
With these questions, I find myself aching, clawing, scratching for any semblance of positive gain. I try my darndest to execute what I like to call Silver Lining Thinking. It is a survival technique to find hope and optimism - to seek the bright side. You see, I hold a deep desire to transform strife into resilience in this life. I want that. I do. And I hope to model it for others. But I sometimes lament a feeling that cultivating resiliency has become my primary purpose in life. Can that really be what I’m here for? To burden great loss and difficulty in order to show others that it can be survived?
Here’s the thing: Resilience is not about Surviving. It is a marker of Thriving. Maybe it’s just harder to see that when in the thick of the quagmire. In full candor, I do not feel as though I am currently thriving. I have been feeling a little lost. Wayward. I find myself on the cusp of major transition and, what’s more, I have challenged myself to not hyperplan the ‘What’s Next’ that provides such a mirage of security when exiting familiar territory. That’s why it’s so important to be able to zoom out - to exit the murkiness of a microscopic viewpoint and to recognize the self-initiated and courageous challenges that have led me to this moment - and the massive hurdles that I have overcome.
I have been through cycles of grief and exuberance before. I have experienced beautiful highs and heartbreaking lows. It is not pride nor pity that leads me to acknowledge the depths of excruciating hardship that I have journeyed during my 34 trips around the sun. I think it’s important to not will that away with false sunniness or flippancy. Each tough moment, no matter how laden with strife, has taught me something. Each has given me something. And, in this current moment, each memory can serve as a point of comparison - as a barometric measure - a reminder of my resilience.
That being said, I don’t only seek resiliency. I also seek growth. I would far rather experience a challenging life than a stagnant one. So let me remember: while this current hardship may feel deafening, I received the glorious gift of agency to bring parts of it about. Much of my current state is the result of a choice. An incredibly brave and admirable choice. Heartbreak exists. As does uncertainty, grief, and loneliness. But mixed in with that is an ember self-respect that holds the capacity to catch flame and illuminate a path forward into the present unknown.
This revelation calls to mind Kintsugi (or Golden Joinery), a Japanese pottery technique to repair breaks with gold lacquer. Drawing from philosophies like wabi-sabi, emphasis is placed on embracing and appreciating the marks and imperfections that arise from an applied life. With this compassionate sensitivity, the breaks and repairs become a celebrated history rather than a disguised point of shame. There is no attempt to hide, nor does an apathetic discarding occur. Instead the sutures are literally illuminated, enhancing an already fine specimen into a dazzling work of creation, endurance, and beauty. Kintsugi is proof that life can handle the shattering moments. In fact, the cracks and fissures are integral to the unique brilliance of this philosophy. I recognize this is an artistic technique meant for ceramics, but I think it serves as an apt metaphor for humanity as well.
Being a human is hard. Luckily, we have tools to survive, to thrive - and the strategies are not limited to a right way/wrong way approach. Mining for silver isn't the only way to find peace in hardship. Sometimes you have to break in order to be golden.