Kintsukuroi, literally translating to “golden repair”, is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with lacquer that is laced with gold. The beauty of the concept lies in the repaired object, which evokes greater meaning and appreciation than before it was broken – the proof of its fragility and resilience, now amplified. Fascinated, I wondered what if we applied that concept to ourselves every time we broke, every time we faced an adversity?
Loss and pain are a part of life that none of us can escape. Accompanied by feelings of grief, fear, helplessness and inadequacy, loss often arrives with a jolt that can shake the very foundation of how we relate to this world. We begin to question the fundamentals – even our existence. What if we rewired ourselves to look at loss as an opportunity for growth and transformation? Admittedly, when one is in the depths of a loss it seems unthinkable that recovery is possible, let alone see that period as one for growth. But what if growth was as much about losing as it is about gaining – losing fear, losing false identities, losing disempowering beliefs, losing judgment?
This pandemic is showing us strange and unprecedented times. There are immediate and recognisable losses – the biggest being that of ‘normalcy’ or life as we knew it – but there are also underlying and unassuming ones, which are hard to put a finger on or express. These losses are causing us discomfort and even grief, as David Kesser, the foremost expert on grief, brilliantly and compassionately explains in this recent article.
How do we re-story loss and pain? How do we Kintsukuroi ourselves? Born out of courage, resilience and the desire to rebuild ourselves, the three traits below – innate or acquired – can become the bridge that take us from pain to transformation, from adversity to personal growth.
> Self-care: The range of emotions that the pandemic is taking us through – from fear, anxiety and uncertainty to gratitude for being alive and around our family – this experience is in many ways new to all of us. Working, homeschooling and housekeeping while being there for friends and family, the lines between our various roles are getting blurred. We’re constantly having to give our best while forgetting to fill our own cup first.
Often ignored or overlooked, self care is a key aspect of growing through adversity. Nourishing ourselves physically and making time to process our emotions are imperative before we lend a helping hand to those who we love. Asking ourselves how we feel, what we need, and what we’ve learnt in a given day, are questions that deserve our time every single day. Let’s treat ourselves with care, compassion and patience, as we would a piece of art that we were creating. After all, personal growth is the most meaningful work that we undertake in our life.
> Self-awareness: Paying keen attention to our adversity throws light on our strengths – how we stay true to our values, priorities and needs – and also our lack or, in other words, areas of growth. Both matter. Acknowledging and appreciating what is good in us amplifies our confidence, and looking at how far we have come fuels our journey forward. This approach makes the acceptance of our shortcomings easier, and the necessary changes that inch us closer to our best versions more achievable.
Self-awareness does another powerful thing – it opens us to ask for help so we may have all the support we need to keep getting better. This help could be in the form of learning from those who inspire us, asking friends and family to hold us accountable in areas that we are working on, or seeking support from an expert like a coach.
> One step at a time: Often adversity brings with it its close cousin, uncertainty. We can rarely see beyond the next couple of steps when we are navigating a tough situation. So what do we do? We take the next step; just one step at a time. Getting comfortable with ‘not knowing’, and restraining from speculating the worst scenario helps us be our best in the moment – as it will through the current pandemic too, where each day brings with it unknowns and ambiguity.
We are inspired by those who transform through tough times, aren’t we? And here we are, together, in one such that is filled with unique hardships and uncertainties in equal measures. As a race, we have survived numerous adversities and emerged stronger and more resilient; it’s just how we are programmed. A little intention can get us out the other end of this pandemic too, not just having bounced back but moved to a better space than before – quite like broken pottery that is repaired with gold.