It's Okay to Be Broken
I’m perpetually split open by the expansiveness of life, but no one ever told me it was okay to be broken. We’re all simply wounded healers, doing the best we can. No one tells us there’s always something left to fix, that we never "make" it to "adulthood". No one tells us we’re basically the same throughout our lives, we never hit a plateau of "knowing" or maturity … This second, I’m 30 years old, unmarried, and unattached. I’m on the D train, crossing the Manhattan Bridge, exiting Manhattan, my back is facing Brooklyn, but I’m suspended on the bridge due to "train traffic ahead". The Lower East Side is on display. Just shy of the river there is a tangled mess of buildings, all jostling for prominence among the crowd. From my place on the bridge, I see people in their homes. I spy a woman folding sheets, pressing the linen against her body as if this cloth was made of gold. She holds the sheet against herself as if her insides might fall out. For some reason, I fight the urge to cry.
My theory is that we’re all just trying to keep it together. We duct tape our personal pain, put concealer on our fears, put on a little lipstick, and turn a blind eye toward the suffering around us. This is how we move through the world. We weave around strangers, careful not to get too close. We try to remain stalwart in the face of things that scare us. We avoid eye contact and we’re careful not to touch. Many of us smile just enough to keep from seeming rude. We sit on trains, shoulder to shoulder, never saying a word, never knowing how deeply we’re connected.
At any given moment, people might be watching their opportunity go by. People are being wheeled into and out of surgery. A resident intern is learning how to deal with death. There are women giving birth, while others are mourning lost loved ones. Someone is preparing to go to war, while somewhere else, someone else is having the best day of her life. We all have this moment in common. We’re all inhabitants of the same space. Somewhere people are touching hands and feeling sparks for the first time. It’s both night and day depending on where your feet are planted. Everything that can possibly happen is happening right now, and, incredibly, we are all surviving. We don’t always have to be happy about that fact. Sometimes surviving is magical enough.
In these moments when I’m smacked by my own emotions, I’m reminded of a quote by Pema Chodron: “To be fully alive, fully human and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to always be in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again."
No one told me that sometimes crying is the best way to proceed. No one gives us permission to keep asking big questions: How can we move closer to one another in a world that moves so fast? Centrifugal force can make hermits of us all. They don’t tell us the biggest truth: If we’re not broken open by all the pain of the beauty that surrounds us, we’re probably not living most fully.
There will always be a reason to stop and catch our breath. There is always something of which to be in awe. If no one has told you, allow me to be the first: it’s okay to be present with what’s broken in your life. It’s okay to breathe into what you’d rather avoid. It’s okay to befriend the unpleasantness. You’re not the only person who’s felt hurt. It’s okay to not know exactly where you’re headed next. It’s okay to be so unhappy that you can’t get out of bed. You’re not alone. Let these words curl up beside you and help you cope. It’s okay to feel stagnant, to know where you’d like to go, but deeply question your next move. We all get where we’re going in due time. It’s okay to sometimes feel trapped by the life you’ve made; even if it’s a life you love. It’s okay to avoid old friends because you can’t tell them the truth—that your life isn’t as perfect as Facebook posts make it seem. None of us has easy solutions. We are all nursing some form of our own brokenness.
But as I live and breathe, I am worthy. As I blink and inhale deeply, I know that I’m okay because humanity is the condition of being perpetually imperfect, broken, or breakable—another way of saying to be cherished and handled with care.
"How to Recognize the Beauty of Being Broken," SONIMA 2018 (published on November 20, 2014, permalink: http://bit.ly/StLukesNYClentenblog-Brokenness). Author: Patia Braithwaite with redaction, annotations, and additional text by your Auntie Dasch on 2018-02-23 as posted above.