belonging, CHD, CHD Awareness, faith, Heart Mom, homeschool, imagination, kintsugi, life lessons, loss, Open Heart Surgery, shame, Uncategorized

Kintsugi

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and filling the cracks with gold, silver, or platinum. This repair shows that the brokenness is part of the history of the piece instead of some reason to throw it away or hide it. It celebrates each crack by filling it with precious metal. The piece often looks more beautiful as a result of this process.

Shortly after her seventh birthday, we found out that a part of my daughter, her most precious part, was broken. To repair it, the surgeons would have to further damage her tiny body by breaking through her sternum and stopping her heart, cutting out a part of her pericardium, and using it to repair a large hole. Much like a broken piece of pottery, she would forever have a crack down the center of her chest.

Shortly after her diagnosis, a friend sent us a Kintsugi kit. We opened it and looked at it, but my daughter wasn’t ready to do anything with it. Today, as part of our homeschooling, we watched a video about the art of Kintsugi and talked about how we are like that broken pottery. We opened the kit and pulled out the two beautiful whole bowls. Using a piece of cloth, we smashed the pottery with a hammer. We took time to look at each piece and see how each one fit into the other to create a new bowl. We glued the bowls back together and sealed them with gold.

Through this process, we talked about times when we felt broken. We talked about how sometimes we feel like all those broken pieces just lying there on a cloth. We talked about things in our life that make us feel new or better. We talked about how music, art, family, our dog, cuddling, and our hammock are our gold paint.  These things help us feel whole again. I told my daughter that we could look at these broken times as part of our history and recognize that they are not weaknesses, but the things that make us stronger. She said her surgeon made her stronger with stitches. She said she’s lucky because she only has one crack and the bowls have cracks all over.

This discussion led to us eventually painting her scar gold like the cracks in the pottery. She looked at it and smiled. She loves her scar. She asked if it could always be gold and I replied, “It is even if you don’t see it.”

My daughter is seven. Deep discussions don’t happen much. Even today, we only touched on the significance of the art we did. My wish for her is to remember it. I want her to see gold beaming through her skin like sun rays bursting out of her chest every time she looks down at her scar.  When she gets hurt or fails or life just knocks her down, I hope she finds her gold paint, puts herself back together with it, and realizes she is stronger and more brilliant every time. I hope she never feels shame when things go wrong, but instead sees the lesson that comes from breaking.

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” 
~ Rumi

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belonging, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, loss, parenting, shame, Uncategorized

shame and belonging

Lately I have been feeling so unsettled. I walk around my house and it doesn’t feel like home. It doesn’t feel like it fits. It feels like I am in someone else’s house. I used to come home and feel so good here, but I lost that feeling a couple of months ago and I haven’t been able to get it back. Every room feels off somehow. I look at my body and I feel like it is not mine. I feel like I am in the wrong skin. I don’t recognize the medical issues I am dealing with as my own. It’s as if they belong to someone else entirely. I drive or walk around my city and I feel like a visitor. I feel like I don’t belong here. I’m grasping at things from my past thinking if I could get them back, make different decisions, or get another chance to replay the last year of my life, but do it differently, I would feel ok again. We can’t do that though, can we? We can’t undo our decisions and we rarely get second chances. The last six months play over and over in my head  like Groundhog Day on repeat. As torturous as that seems, I have never been one who can leave a puzzle unfinished. So, if the puzzle is my life, I will replay every conversation and moment in hopes that I will find the solution or the missing piece.

Belonging is something that I have struggled with for most of my life. I moved to different towns and states several times in my childhood and beyond. I always felt like the outsider looking in. I would find things I liked in each house, friends I connected with, and value in each experience. Still, I never quite felt like I truly belonged or that I was truly home. That was always something I thought would come sometime in the future or was simply something that existed somewhere else.

The thing that is different now is that for the first time in a long time I love who I am and all I have been through and done to get to this very uncomfortable place. Until recently, I was ashamed of being a single mother. This meant being ashamed of who I was from the moment I woke up in the morning and looked into my daughter’s smiling eyes. The shame began at sunrise and continued through the two or more glasses of wine I used to drink every night. I was ashamed that my house was small, cluttered, and filled completely with secondhand mismatched furniture because that is all I could afford and that my car was old and beat up. I was ashamed every time I picked up the phone and asked for another loan from my mom to cover another cost so I could stay afloat. I was ashamed that at 41, I had a job that paid me less than the average undergrad makes right out of college, even though the work of that job made me happy and gave me the time I need to be a mom. I was ashamed that I had reached midlife without ever having a healthy or successful relationship with a man.

The thing about shame is that it imprisons you. You cannot move forward and you cannot open yourself up to other people or experiences. It causes you to live in the deceptive state of never being good enough for anyone or anything. It is not being embarrassed about something you did. It is literally thinking that407268_10150449280357005_1610035080_n who you are is wrong. Once shame takes over your life, it becomes your belonging. You can never fully belong to anything or anyone else, because you belong only to your shame. There is a twisted comfort in all of it as it becomes your self imposed identity. You never give yourself fully in any relationship, romantic or otherwise, because you already have one foot out the door ready to run in the other direction.

With the help of a professional, I recently did work on this shame to overcome it. I don’t feel the way I did before. I now recognize that I am managing a house on my own, raising a child on my own, directing a whole department at my job, all while training for a half marathon. None of these are easy tasks and there is no shame in them. Have I made poor decisions in relationships and in finances, and other areas of my life? Yes! We all have. We have all, at least once, royally fucked up. That is what it means to be human and that is where the real growth happens. It does not in any way make us less than anyone else nor does it make us any less worthy of receiving love.

So, in this place of discomfort and this feeling of unease, there is an excitement. Perhaps it is this post-shame world where I truly belong. It feels wrong and strange and it feels like I am an observer in someone else’s world. The pull to go back to where things were comfortable is strong, but there is no growth there. The push to be present and take it all in is scary and the unknown makes my skin crawl, but that is the place we often find ourselves before something truly great begins.

True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable and learn how to be present with people — without sacrificing who we are. We want true belonging, but it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into hard moments.– Brené Brown

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