A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".
Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.
I think of this now as I approach the painful anniversary of my grandmother's death. I think of this because somehow I've been drawn to books like The Gentle Barn by Ellie Laks, and Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, both by Cheryl Strayed, that demonstrate the pains of life that we each go through. The horrible, terrible, very bad things that we all have to endure. Painful things that, eventually, go away so we can have a life that leads to better things. A life of wonderful, fabulous, very good things.
This also makes me realize, with even more truth that I knew before, that each and every one of us has been or will be broken at some point in our lives by some act, large or small, that we'll have to endure. The act that breaks us - death, an ugly divorce, molestation, addiction - oddly enough, unites us. I know not of a single person that hasn't had some terrible, horrible, very bad thing happen to them. We are connected by this, as awful as it is, a life where no one goes untouched by pain.
When I say we are broken, I do not mean this in a way that suggests we can never be repaired or that we're definitively ruined by these events. I say it for two reasons: 1) It is a universal truth that life is not perfect and painless and 2) some of the strongest, smartest, most beautiful people in the world are the ones that have been broken the most.
In Japan, they have a word "Kintsugi" that refers to the act of fixing broken ceramics with gold to make them, and I quote, "…more gorgeous, and more precious, than before it was fractured." They believe when something has a history and has suffered damage it becomes more beautiful. When you look at it like that it means that each of us has a painful, yet beautiful history and that each history is unique, making it even more precious.
That being said, I know there are pains so deep and dark that right now they seem unbearable. That in this moment it is completely impossible to imagine a brighter future.
But it exists.
I say this from a place of certainty and experience. I was verbally and physically sexually harassed when I was a teenager, lied to for years and years by someone I loved and trusted, and spent the majority of my childhood in a nursing home watching my father slowly die from an incurable disease.
And yet, I love my life.
And yet, I have my own deep and dark place that often seems unbearable still. I have to live with this ever constant and increasing truth:
Almost all of my family is dead.
I must accept that this is my broken life. One that I keep repairing with the gold love of my friends and family. A life where I have done my own version of Kintsugi, finding and creating a family of my own.
Over the years I've tried to assign this fact of mine percentages... 50% of my family is gone, 77%, 90… 90% of my family is gone. I never know how to truly calculate it. I'm not even sure why I try, except that somehow having a number assigned to it makes me feel like I can grasp it better.
My dad died when I was 8. By the time I was 14 all of the family on my father's side was gone. The years blur together for me: Grandparents, uncles, aunts, godmothers, great aunts and uncles, and of course, pets. When I was 19, the next timeline I can clearly date, one of my closest friends was murdered. And after that, I lost my grandparents on my mother's side. My mom is broken in her own way, because of everything. I don't know how to lessen her pain. It is unbearable sometimes. It is unbearable to be alone trying to lessen her pain. I am an only child and I wish I wasn't. Outside of everything else that has happened to me, this is the headline of my life story.
Almost all of my family is dead.
When my grandmother passed away, I lost my memory. Not all of it, but pieces. In particular, and for about a year, my short-term memory was gone. But I never forgot her. I never forgot being 4 years old, playing at her neighbors house next door, with our family friends, Charlie and Millie, asking me what my favorite color was.
"Purple, " I told them. "But Gramma, what's your favorite color?" I asked.
"Blue, " she said.
"Blue. Blue is my favorite color, " I said. Completely and 100% certain in that moment that no other color could have possibly been my favorite because my grandmother loved it and I loved her and everything she loved.
One part about the terrible, horrible, very bad things that I find terrible and horrible in it's own way is having the important people of my life today not fully understand my past because they weren't a part of it. Only those who lived through the funerals with me, through the pain in the moment, truly know what I lost and how deeply it etched it's way in my soul. It also pains me to know that those same important people of today will never meet the important people of my past. My boyfriend will never meet my grandmother. He will never know the true weight of my love for her because he will never see it in action.
I also find it odd, because of my own reality, to meet someone who has an almost entirely and intact family, barely marked by death. A large, living family with aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins everywhere you look. I know this is normal for many people, but because it is not my normal it always throws me off for a second. My mind wraps around one repeating phrase: You have so many people…so many people…so many people.
I recently met my boyfriend's other grandmother. He has one of those big families with so many people I can't even wrap my head around it. I didn't know I was going to fall apart just in meeting her. Every second I spent staring at this beautiful lady reminded me of two things: I had grandparents. I have no grandparents.
I had grandparents. I have no grandparents. I had grandparents…I have no grandparents…IhadgrandparentsIhavenograndparents.
And yet, my life is wonderful. I don't say that from a place of fake hope or misguided judgment. My life is truly wonderful. I couldn't imagine changing any of it because, in doing so, some ripple effect would take place that would also change all of the wonderful things. My repeatedly repaired life, full of cracks filled with gold, is breathtakingly beautiful.
And because of that, I know this:
Whatever you're going through, it will get better. It will end. It will change.
You will find a way to fill the fractures of your life with gold and you will be more beautiful for it.
You are worth the struggle, the fight, the clawing and kicking and screaming. You will make it to the other side.
We all will. We are in this together.
We are the broken ones.
We are strong. We are capable. We are meant to live our way into a wonderful, fabulous, very good life.