If I had a tumor, I’d name it ‘2014’
The Japanese have an art of repairing broken pottery with seams of gold. They call this kintsugi, and it holds true to their wabi-sabi philosophy of embracing that which is flawed or imperfect.
Kintsugi aesthetics value marks of wear by highlighting these cracks as simply events in the life of an object, profoundly making it even more beautiful and invaluable than before it was broken. Such a shame this technique is not widely known in our disposable-oriented society.
Last year I began to truly understand depression. I would be washing dishes and then start crying inconsolably for no apparent reason, and oddly feel detached from the whole scenario. There were days when just getting out of bed was my single greatest achievement.
Depression is not always the intense, irrational sense of hopelessness. Most of the time it’s just the humdrum, dull, droning ache at the base of your skull, like an impacted tooth beginning to make itself felt.
There wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t question why I allowed myself to live in a country where I would endure maddening social isolation. Yes, I knew this was the best path that would get me to where I need to be, but I didn’t know it would take this long or that it would break me this much. The basic freedom of being able to openly stroll on the streets or rant about life to a friend over beer, or simply having a friend to rant to, were privileges that were no longer readily available to me. I watched everyone in my world go by through the aquarium glass pane of my computer screen, feeling lost. Feeling forgotten.
The year 2014 was not the kindest year not only to me, but the world in general. Think of all the children kidnapped in Nigeria or sunk in the MV Sewol or bombed in Gaza or massacred in Peshawar. Think of the odd series of planes disappearing and crashing and being gunned down. Think of Isis and Ebola and Ukraine and Ferguson.
I saw the most deaths happen to people I personally knew last year. I was so inundated by all this sadness that sharp fingernails clawed trenches up my gut before I could even read the morning news. The mourning news.
The thing about depression is that one moment you feel all the agony from the things you read as if they’re your own, and in the next instant you don’t give a flying fig about any and all of that because the inevitable pain that is your life demands your more immediate attention.
So every day I woke up, I sat at my kitchen table and wrestled with decisions. The decision to believe that my life has meaning and purpose. The decision to recommit myself to the faith in my God that I more often argue with than pray to. The decision to believe that every circumstance I am forced to endure at the moment is pushing and pulling the tensile limits of my convictions, just to challenge me that there shouldn’t be limits to its strength at all.
It took a daily struggle to pursue this conversation because the alternative was not something I could afford to entertain. So I trained. I physically exhausted myself three hours a day until I was literally yellow and purple and courting an excursion to the emergency room. I posted photos of my progress on social media—the cosmic graffiti that I spray-painted into the big black cybervoid so that for one fragmented moment in time, I could validate my existence.
I started writing. It became my act of defiance against fading like the kitsch wallpaper that had probably been in my apartment long before we put a man on the moon. I’m still wrestling with my circumstances in making the life that I want to happen, but if that labor is allowing me to touch someone in the span of 800 words, then I am serving my purpose.
Feeling alive may be a luxury, but being alive and doing something meaningful with your time is a decision you choose to commit to every single day you open your eyes.
What was dismally grim about 2014 was that there weren’t enough light moments to counteract the cruel ones. But every season has a beginning and an end. And if, like me, you’ve had a brutal year, then we can choose to view it as our personal kintsugi. We can choose to be a source of joy anyway and bless people with our compassion. We can choose to see every heartbreak as simply gold-repaired cracks in our lives, profoundly making it even more beautiful and invaluable than before it was broken.
Happy New Year, folks.
Sweet Caneos describes herself as “a professional flow artist and pole dancer” who founded “the first hula-hoop community” in the Philippines and in Saudi Arabia, where she is currently based.
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