A little broken cup
When I was still young and inexperienced, I received a ceramic mug as a gift. I held onto it as part of a small collection of decorative treasures I hoped to one day place in a China cabinet. I was in my 40s before I finally got that cabinet, so I stored my treasures in boxes for a long time. When the day finally came to fill it up, the handle of this mug was broken into two pieces during the unpacking.
I’ve learned some valuable lessons about trauma and recovering from trauma because of this little broken cup. Maybe you can learn a thing or two as well.
We try to hide our damage.
Holding onto the mug, I never repaired it (because it would never be the same) and never tossed it out (because I couldn’t part with something so special). I left it in the cabinet with the broken pieces placed inside and rotated the mug to show off the parts that were still whole.
We get stuck.
We’re all guilty of thinking that we can only make an impact when we put our best selves forward. For some of us, that desire to “do our best” can be the very thing that gets in our way. Inevitably, pieces of our lives break. Not wanting to show our weakness, we tuck the broken pieces inside. Then we show the world what we think is the best version of ourselves.
We’re not fooling anyone.
We try so hard to hide the broken pieces, pretending they’re not there. No one mentions the jagged, broken edges, but that doesn’t mean they don’t notice. Others can tell that we have work left to do.
We must do the work.
For whatever reason, today I finally decided to attempt a repair. The process was messy as I have never mastered the art of using SuperGlue without getting it all over everything except the one thing I’m trying to fix. The mug will never be new again. Small pieces are missing that can never be replaced. It’s no longer broken, yet not quite whole either, as its scars are jagged and visible. It’s something different because now it has a story.
We can use our damage to help others.
The words on my mug were accurate. Oddly enough, like the mug, I had to break (and stay broken for a while) to touch the lives of others. My missing pieces and scars — jagged and visible — are the very things that made it possible to become the person described on the side of the mug.
People notice when we heal.
When we shine a light on the broken bits, we can carefully mend them back together. This is when we are truly authentic. Yet there is risk in healing. We need the light to see clearly enough to make the repairs. Yet that light makes our damage visible to others. People will notice that we are healing. They may see the messes we make, the false starts, and failures. Yet they will also watch us clean up that mess, regroup, and try again.
The scars become part of our story.
Those damaged — now repaired — places become the central character in our story. The story now becomes one worth sharing. We touch many lives when we can finally say, “I was broken. Now I’m healed.”