The Japanese art of Kintsugi (“golden joinery”) treats the necessary repair of a broken piece of ceramic pottery as an opportunity to honor the history of the piece. Instead of trying to mask the repairs by creating nearly invisible cracks, the shards of a broken piece of pottery are reattached using a special lacquer mixed with a precious metal such as gold or silver. Doing so creates eye-catching “scars” – purposefully visible scars of unique beauty. Kintsugi celebrates the history of the people who came into contact with the piece: those who created it, as well as those who gifted it, appreciated it, cared for it, displayed it, and ultimately, broke it through its use. The repair technique acknowledges this history in a beautiful way, making the piece truly one of a kind.
Unlike the Japanese, our Western culture rarely embraces imperfection as truly beautiful – in pottery or in people. The physical bodies we carry around day-to-day are temporary and while they’re here, our bodies are susceptible to disease and permanent injury. It’s tough to accept, let alone to appreciate, at least not until you’re forced to re-think value and “beauty” because of disease or injury and the limitations and scars they leave behind.
In a Psychology Today article ‘broken people’ who learn and grow from life event traumas are described as beautiful and resilient. They would give up their growth if they could avoid the hurt, but that wasn’t a choice.
Breast cancer isn’t something I wanted. I look at my scars every day and wish my body was like it was before the surgery. But having a double mastectomy with no reconstruction has forced me to re-think beauty. I’m slowly learning to appreciate the beauty of brokenness, to celebrate the history of this physical body that is loved, and cared for, put on display (albeit under clothing), and is still beautiful.
I hope you embrace yourself whatever your physical condition. Scars are a record of your life history. As painful as it may be, try to appreciate the history and beauty there.
For more information about the emotional recovery following cancer treatment visit the Mayo Clinic website.