Seeing Beauty in Brokenness

How a thunderstorm broke open the sky and my heart

Twelve days ago, my parents and I spent eight hours in the basement glued to the weather channel while the weather radio issued frequent thunderstorm warnings. I could hear the rain pelting against the windows as though the sky had broken open. Looking out into the dark, I saw the aggressive raindrops in the light of the lamppost as they fiercely came down from the dark clouds.

I was worried about the what ifs. What if this thunderstorm turned more violent? Did I have a contingency plan? I texted close friends, called my neighbors, and I prayed for safety for all.

My thoughts were interrupted as cracks of lightning lit up the sky. For a brief period, my anxious worries vanished and I gazed at Nature’s lightshow in awe. As the loud rumbling thunder followed, I could still see the beauty of the lightning in my mind’s eye. It was calming in a strange way, allowing me to reframe my anxious fear and anxiety and turn to positive hope. I went down a mental list of everything we had done to ensure safety to the best of our ability.

As the night went on and the fierce storms diminished in their intensity, however, my mind kept returning to the brilliance of the sky broken open with light, as though inviting me to see and imagine the beyond!

I was reminded of the beautiful story by Paulo Coelho, The Perfect Heart. The story is about a young man who proclaims to a crowd that he had the most beautiful heart, perfect without a flaw. An old man contests this and shares his own heart, which was beating strongly but full of scars. It had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in which didn’t fit quite right and there were several jagged edges. As the young man and the crowd looked confused and surprised, the old man explained that each scar on his heart represented a person to whom he had given his love. He would tear out a piece of my heart and give it to the other and often they would give him a piece of their heart which fitted into the empty place in his heart. But because the pieces weren’t exact, he had some rough edges. Sometimes he gave pieces of his heart away, and the other person did not return a piece of their heart to him. These left the empty gouges after he took that chance to give his love. Although these gouges were painful, they stayed open, reminding him of the love he had for those people too … and he hoped someday they may return and fill the space he had waiting. That was true beauty for him!

The young man silently heard the old man, with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart, and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man. The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his old scarred heart and placed it in the wound in the young man’s heart. It fit but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges. The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old man’s heart flowed into his.

Beauty in brokenness! This is also depicted in the Japanese art of kintsukuroi, which literally means gold mending. This art form teaches us to deal with failures and emphasizes the beauty and utility of the breaks and imperfections. I have a beautiful blue bowl on my desk, given to me by Indrani, my friend of over 40 years, on our much awaited trip to Japan.

I reflected on how this idea fits into living life! What were the other metaphors? I thought of the seed that lays underground in the dark soil until it cracks open and courageously gives life as beautiful plants, fruits and flowers. The pupa or chrysalis cracks open and is metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly!

How could I allow myself to feel hard emotions but not be bitter or allow these emotions to leave me empty or changed? Feeling these emotions is being human and needed for our growth. Reframing does not mean ignoring these hard emotions and painful experiences or pretending they don’t exist. On the contrary it requires us to be still, and reflect with intention. This allows us to seek the positive or benefits when faced with rejections, loss, insubordination, grief, anger or frustrations. This needs intentionality and practice. I need to know my trigger or pain points, pause and try to avoid being reactive, defensive or even judgmental. Allowing time to unpack events by myself or with a safe trusted community is helpful in reframing and even turning to wonder and curiosity. This introspection is not easy, and many a times I need to be kind, compassionate and forgiving to myself. Making this practice a ritual, allowing time for intentional reflection with trusted relationships is what helps me!

#REFLECT: What could we do with our brokenness? What beauty can it reveal? How can we seek the beauty?

As 2021 is unfolding, how do you tend to self-care, community and resilience? I will continue posting reflections on these themes and invite you to join in the conversation here or on Twitter or Instagram with your thoughts or what you are doing for self-care and care of others. My book explores such ideas too: Resilient Threads: Weaving Joy and Meaning into Well-Being.