It’s difficult for us to value brokenness, especially for those damaged with disability. Imagine a three-legged puppy. Regardless of how cute she is, stick her in a litter of fully-functional, anatomically complete siblings and I’m willing to bet you that she’ll be the last one to be adopted, if at all. Being able to appreciate brokenness is an uncommon quality to have, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s a completely human tendency to be attracted to what’s perfect, great and complete—and be repulsed by what’s not. It’s not a sin to want great things. In fact, it’s essential to get ahead and achieve greatness yourself. But it takes a different level of humanity to be able to will the compassion to accept the damaged thing in front of you and see the potential and beauty in its imperfection.
Beauty in Imperfection
Nothing communicates this better than the Japanese art of Kintsugi, the art of repairing shattered pottery by mending it with patches gold or silver. Kintsugi is an extension of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi which values simplicity, imperfection and accepting the transitoriness of moments. Wabi-sabi dictates that nothing is permanent, finished or perfect. It reminds us to appreciate beauty in an imperfect world. It’s a philosophy that the chronically ill ought to strive to have so we can see the charm in our complex lives. The philosophy of wabi-sabi allows us to bend reality to see the good in our brokennes. It reminds us that in acceptance we find freedom and growth.
I’m no stranger to pessimistic thoughts. I’ve always felt incomplete and deeply flawed having been born with hemophilia and acquired a seizure disorder along the way. It’s a tall order for me to smile and say that things are okay. Yes, I’d try to smile for the people supporting me, but inside I know it’s shallow. Self-love has never been my strong suit, so it’s a constant struggle to practice the philosophy. But as I mentioned, it takes a great deal of intentionality to be able to see beyond the cracks. It’s my very existence that’s shattered—not simply a pot or bowl. And for a long time, I cursed whoever god existed whose hand slipped and dropped me prior to my conception to give me my chronic flaws.
Let Go of Perfection
In a world that craves perfection, perfection remains, to me elusive. I gave myself nothing but pain and contempt searching for it. The toxic pursuit for “normality” set me out for deeper brokennessI set myself out for even more—actually deeper—brokenness. The desire for completeness made me want to destroy the bowl altogether. Surrender to the present moment. Let go of perfection and it will be okay—it might just take time. Perfection is unrealistic, a romantic dream we long so much to have but, of course, can’t. There is calm in acknowledging you’re imperfect and to simply be. And it’s freeing to embrace and nurture these flaws so they can bloom into something great.
It Takes Time and Will
It took years of experience to give me the perspectives I have now, and still I struggle to keep them. I try to reflect on my illnesses and seek what makes me strong and dinstinct. PWDs have a perception of reality rarely seen by anyone, precisely because of their illness. They’ve dealt with things few people will ever face—giving them valuable and unique insights into the human condition. This is one of the reasons why I write about my own experiences as a PWD in my column, The”I” in Hemophilia. Illness grants one the ability to inspire and instill hope in others that only few can. They have the gift of giving a voice to those rendered voiceless by years of trauma and insecurity brought by their illnesses. What sets them apart in a world of advocates is their own exposure to the world of disabilities—they know it by heart.
In a world demanding perfection, face the reality that perfection is an illusion. Kintsugi teaches us to set aside perfection and strive instead to seek for excellence in our own imperfection. So find the beauty in your imperfection and share the things that make you truly unique and precious.