We’ve all been broken at one time or other in our lives. We break when our friends or relatives die. We break when relationships end, when love is lost. Sometimes we crack, little cracks over time that lead to breaking for what seems like no apparent reason. The key is what we do after the break, how we put ourselves back together or how we treat others who have been broken.
We think of breaking, of being broken, and the first thing that comes to mind is that the broken (person or thing) is now weaker. After all, if you break a plate you don’t just glue it together and continue serving dinner on it. It is no longer strong enough for that. We might salvage the pieces to use in some mosaic or to put in the bottom of our planters but the reality is that most would just throw it away.
What if you were able to mend the plate so that it was stronger than before? What if you used a special industrial glue, added a coat of glaze and threw it back in the kiln so that the broken edges no longer showed? Would you continue to use it as before, or would you still see it as something that was once broken and treat it more gently? You don’t have to treat it more gently, you just do because even though it is stronger now you still only see the broken bits. What if someone else uses the plate? Someone who doesn’t know it was once broken. They have no idea that it’s been mended and treat it just like any other plate. Will you tell them it was broken? Would that then change the way they treated it?
This happens all the time with people, for a multitude of reasons that ultimately don’t matter one bit.
I had a miscarriage when I was younger. There is no denying it broke me. There was a noticeable piece missing. Noticeable to me at least. Friends and family who knew of the miscarriage treated me with kid gloves for a long time. They wouldn’t speak about their kids or mention a co-workers baby shower. If someone who wasn’t aware of my situation was with us and started to point out the brand new baby fresh child a young mother was cooing at my friends would discretely tell them not to do that because I had just had a miscarriage and was feeling very vulnerable. I couldn’t possibly be okay with them admiring someone else’s baby when mine never got the chance to see the light of day. That’s what they thought.
Truth is it did bother me for a while and my friends pointing it out made it worse. Pointing out the shiny new baby didn’t make it worse, the coddling made it worse. The sympathetic I’m sorry’s made it worse. The way they looked at me made it worse. All I wanted was to be treated as I had been before, to go back to being me and not being sad about it anymore.
That break mended and became less noticeable over time. I would even forget about it on occasions. That’s the way it should be. That one little thing that happened a lifetime ago doesn’t define who I am today or how others should treat me. It has little bearing. There are still people though who will see me after many years and quietly, with their hand rested softly on my arm, ask me if I’ve had any children. When I say yes, I have a wonderful little boy, they will smile and pat my arm and say that’s good, that’s good. It is no longer my issue though, it is only theirs.
Some of us break into a million shards of glass that cut and seem impossible to ever put back together again. We don’t let people close to us any more because we only end up hurting them, cutting them with our sharp edges. It may be an intentional move, cutting the ones who come close, or it may be purely accidental that we end up cutting them when we reach out for comfort. Either way, we will build walls up around us so that we don’t cut anyone else. This barrier becomes a part of us, reinforcing the breaks so that we can live and function in society without completely falling apart again. Only a strong person with plenty of patience can make their way over the wall and start filing down our edges.
Other people break into pieces that get put back together in a slightly different way than how they were before. Still beautiful. Still functioning. Still the same person, just different. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t as good as they were before, they may even be better in some respects. The hardest part for these people may be dealing with the people who knew them before they broke. Because even though they’ve been put back together they can never be mended so that they are exactly as they were before and it is difficult for many to understand that.
If you’ve been in a war, if you’ve been in a battle and had to kill someone or watch your friends be killed, you have been broken. If you’ve been stuck under ruble for days, unable to move, in a building collapse after an earthquake, you have been broken. You can’t just return to “normal” life. While you were breaking the world you returned to and the people in it stayed the same. Nothing changed for them so they expect you to be able to return and fall right back into your life as if nothing changed as well. The problem is you are forever changed because something did happen, it just didn’t happen to them.
It doesn’t matter that we’ve been broken. It doesn’t matter that we’ve cut others with our edges, that one of our pieces is missing, or that we are different from our original design. We are all people who breathe, who laugh and cry and yearn for companionship and understanding. We are all still the essence of who we’ve always been, we just need to get past the new exterior, let go of the past, and see the new beauty we have become.