The Japanese got it right about what to do with broken things

Do you know what they sometimes do in Japan when they break something? Instead of throwing it away, or trying to hide the little chips and the big fissures, they take molten gold and repair the item. Each line, each fracture is precious and unique, and the bowl goes from being an ordinary thing that you’d fill with rice and stick on the table, to a work of art.

Not only is the object more beautiful then for having been broken with its imperfections celebrated – but by repairing the broken pieces with gold, we remember to accept inevitable change, and even embrace it.

I think about my own broken pieces — the little ones, the big ones, the times my heart’s been shattered, each time I’ve cried myself to sleep or slumped on the ground where the dust turns into rivers, all the scars and all breaks, the pieces that I carry in a little jumble like broken marbles with me always. I’d like to think I’m better for having been broken – but most days I feel like Picasso got all high and painted me backwards while he was half asleep.

Like the day I passed out and woke up with my skirt hiked up and my thighs wet, and a man who told me “nothing happened.”

Or the fear I felt at Damascus Gate the night I was hit with stones when I was only 18.

Or the man I trusted with my life and how he held my cats under water, how he pinched my arm until bruises bloomed along the inside, how he made me cover them, how he threatened he would kill himself, and me, too.

Or my mother dying in my arms. The way her breath moved like wind over giant cliffs, through a cave of hanging rocks and shards and ice.

Or the little moments that added up, the tedium, the anxiety, the night sweats and the panic when I held my first baby for the first time, and how I did it again in just 18 moons, how the burden was too much for me and for my husband, how it all just added up somehow, and on top of that a move across the world where everything fell apart.

Or kissing the man I love goodbye and clutching that one perfect piece tightly in my palm where I keep it safe from the vampires or the tigers.

All those broken pieces, little memories, big ones, too, slow ones, fast ones, spinning in that little bag I carry that sometimes is heavier than I can manage.

And then, the bigger break – that I am in two pieces sometimes, my family here, my family there. My home as a mother here, my mother’s home, there. And each time I go back to LA and see my family, it’s like I broke off somehow from this place, and from my own two babies, and I am walking those old familiar streets with one big piece missing, but I can’t remember what it was.

(I said it before: It’s like Picasso got all high and painted me backwards while he was half asleep.)

But then just last week, after a long flight back from Los Angles, across the time zones and an ocean, across land and jagged rocks, and a soft landing on the coastal plane, my daughter and son and I walked home in the moonlight on the old dirt road where we live, the one strewn with rocks that glowed like pearls in the moonlight.

My daughter held my hand.

“What did I miss while I was away, baby?” I asked her.

“Well, there’s this boy…” she said… And she squeezed my hand and looked at me her eyes shining ,too, twin moons.

‘Oh?” I said, my heart growing about fifteen sizes in my chest while I remembered about all the times I liked a boy and never said a word, about how I was afraid to tell my mom, embarrassed she would laugh.

“Well there’s a boy,” she said again, “and I want your advice – your tips, you know?”

“Really?”

REALLY? I thought to myself. Really? The woman who was beaten in her living room, the woman divorced, the woman dumped, the woman he never called back, the woman with no more mother, the woman hungrily in love, the woman in so many little pieces.

“Yeah,” she said and squeezed my hand again. “I know, I know, you got divorced, you love someone far away, blah blah blah, you had a bad boyfriend, you had a lot of trouble…”

“So why are you asking me for tips?” I said squeezing her hand back, and looking down at her little face.

She sees me.

And she sees my worth.

And can I just tell you? Right there, halfway on that beaten road, all those broken pieces – the ones with sharp and cruel edges, and the ones that have been worn away by tears, came together filled with gold into something beautiful and whole.

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About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, Times of Israel's New Media editor, lives in Israel with her two kids in a village next to rolling fields. Sarah likes taking pictures, climbing roofs, and she is moving to the Old City of Jerusalem for a year to live three months in each quarter—Jewish, Christian, Armenian and Muslim—to write a book. She is a work in progress.
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