A Better Bargain

Choosing melancholy over anger is a much saner, healthier, wiser and stronger way to mend a broken heart.
Photo Credits: Love in Bloom Kintsugi
August 1, 2023
Oh the disillusionment, how could they? How is a heart painfully shattered to pieces ever to be mended? By binding the wounded and broken parts back together with golden light, of course! Like kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by fastening the pieces with gold-dusted lacquer, healing a broken heart is easy, and wonder-ful.

Tit for tat? An eye for an eye? Oh yes, revenge can make us feel alive! But “an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind,” as the great-souled Mahatma Gandhi so astutely put it [I don’t believe anyone in their right mind would ever dare to declare Gandhi as weak in his approach to offense and distress.] When we’ve been slighted by and feel deep disappointment from someone, we don’t have to fall back into automatic raging retaliation. Deeply ingrained behavioral patterns will likely have us wanting to push back with equal or greater force. But to not retaliate does not mean we’re a pushover. So we’ve been hurt, so what? It is stronger not to hurt back. So they’ve made us suffer. And?? I’ve learned that to give them a taste of their own medicine and teach them a good hard lesson is not a sign of inner strength. We may believe that showing our hurt is a sign of weakness, of our vulnerability. But no, my wounded darlings, this is not so.

Far easier it is, far more noble and dignified, to simply admit to ourselves that we’ve been deeply hurt and are terrified of being hurt again.

We need not insult or accuse them. We need not preach to them how they should be. And we need not beg them to change either. That, NO!, let’s keep our dignity intact. We need to simply feel our melancholy and be HONEST about the raw truth of the matter. We need not be defenseless but rather lay down our arms of defense and offense. Because we understand they do us a disservice. What could be and feel better than to allow ourselves to be bare… And really seen… And quietly intact and indomitable within? Meekness is not weakness here, my emboldened allied pacifists.

When we get angry, is it not also out of frustration and discontent for not being cheerful, for not having an upbeat day or week or month? What’s so wrong with sitting still with our melancholic self? Why not embrace a temporary mood of melancholy? [Not long bouts, mind you]. So what is melancholy? Why, a beautifully rich complex and tender cocktail of pacific sorrow and deep reflection, of course. Melancholy is a pensive, cognitive and analytical state, nothing to do with depression or chemical imbalance or even emotion. It’s a wise and useful strategy to reconcile with our disappointments in life. It’s a way of committing to the reality of these feelings without (harmful) anger or aggression. We can appreciate melancholy skies and times of day; we marvel at melancholy ballads, and admire melancholy paintings and dance. If we can learn to greet the mishaps of life with the phenomenon that is melancholy, we can flex and build our courage and strength, quietly and peacefully. It’s much healthier to ourselves, more considerate to others, and truly the wisest way to deal.

The guiding philosophy of kintsugi embraces breakage and mending as part of an object’s story, rather than something to conceal, and believes these imperfections bestow it with more richness, strength, and aesthetic allure. According to its origin in the late 15th century, a damaged Chinese tea bowl which was repaired using “ugly” metal staples became cherished even more. Its “ugliness” was seen as inspirational, as it alluded to the beauty in broken things. Collectors were so entranced by this innovative art that some were accused of purposely breaking valuable pottery so as to adorn it with kintsugi golden seams.

In kintsugi, the damage is not masked but made brilliantly visible. It illuminates the art of living fully in the present, of non-attachment, of peace and harmony in the face of change and hardships.The fragility and impermanence of life is nowhere more evident than in the breaks and knocks of ceramics.

For someone like me who has made angry demonstration in the name of fairness and justice her default coping mechanisms, I made a much better bargain with myself and exchanged these causes for a kintsugi mindset. And so, this new mechanism—a melancholic and inspired mood—has literally been quantum in my life. Like kintsugi, my broken heart is far more sturdy than before. I’ve done the work and asked how I learned and grew from it. I’ve taken stock and connected to reality by putting things into perspective, and by appreciating the things of this world that are good and of value to me. I’ve emerged with much more potential for love. Especially for myself, and especially with my imperfections.

All the breaks, cracks and damaged parts of ourselves are where light and love can feed wonder, depth and strength into our heart. WE are to fill our own heart and piece together all its open jagged parts with glowing glimmering golden light. A broken vessel is not a tragedy but a chance to become even more beautiful than it was before. Paradoxically, it is now more whole, and loads more intriguing.

As Carly Simon sings in Coming Around Again: “Don’t mind if I fall apart, there’s more room in a broken heart.”

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