Not a single one of us makes it through childhood without being “broken” ~ at least a little bit and maybe a lot. It begins without our conscious awareness but with our complicity. Why do I say this? Because our very survival depends on it.
We might not survive childhood if we did not find ways to fit in, to be good, to make others (usually our parents or other caregivers) happy. For some children this is literally about survival; for many, it is more figurative but still impactful. We shape our lives and ourselves to do just this ~ to fit in, to survive. It is the conditioning of the experiences, the worldviews, we are born into and that we adapt to and adopt. Our behaviour and attitude adjust to the conditions we find ourselves in.
An unintended consequence of this, for many of us, is that adapting to conditions disconnects us from ourselves, from aspects of who we are at the core, our soul essence. I write about this extensively in Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness. Elements of this stranger are the soul qualities and gifts we come into the world with, that we are intimately connected to when we are born, before we learn concepts of right and wrong, good and evil.
As we move from infancy to toddlerhood, we learn it is not always, maybe usually, safe to expose our inner being. When it shows up in innocent ways, the openness, genuineness and authenticity of it, it can be perceived as a threat to others who have carefully cordoned off their own soul essence ~ also to survive and without knowing or discovering any better ways. Our own soul essence begins to feel fragile rather than strong. Beyond words, our protective instincts kick in and we create protective patterns (excerpted from Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness; pp 12 and 13).
These protective patterns are perpetuated throughout much of our life’s journey. They influence our relationships and our communication, again, usually in unintended ways ~ because why would we intentionally live out many of the patterns we do, patterns that are hurtful and harmful to ourselves and to others? Along the way, bit by bit, we become more broken – to greater or lesser degrees, depending on the circumstances of our life, the people in it and the patterns of brokenness amplified, projected, mirrored in relationship.
And yet, broken crayons still colour. And so do we. We may choose stark colours to sketch the lines of our lives or we may choose the vibrancy of the full array of colours. Depending on where we are in our journey at any given time, we may choose different crayons, different contrasts. We begin to reclaim our light and our wholeness when we remember we have choice, that our own brokenness can invite us into compassion – for our own journey and for others. It can invite us into the fullness of our humanity. So beautifully expressed in the lyrics of Anthem by Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
~ Leonard Cohen ~
It is like the Japanese art of Kintsugi ~ repairing broken pottery with gold, to not hide our brokenness but celebrate it because it is how the light not only gets in, but also shines out. Because of our brokenness we can enjoy a depth of experience not otherwise available to us. We can gain a deep appreciation of love and what it means to love despite everything. Embracing our brokenness enables us to embrace our wholeness. They are not mutually exclusive and this is the journey to openheartedness.