“If it keeps on rainin’ levee’s goin’ to break
When the levee breaks I’ll have no place to stay.
Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan”
~Led Zeppelin, When the Levee Breaks~
Ever feel that innate feeling of satisfaction of fixing something? A thrilling moment of gluing back together the pieces of a vase you knocked over. Reconfiguring a new electronic system to stream your shoes. Sewing a snag shut or a button onto a favorite piece of clothing. I’ll even admit to taking a Sharpie to a piece of black furniture and a favorite pair of stilettos. Viola! When we put something back together again or make it “good as new” there is the secret excitement that we took something broken and made it whole again. We didn’t have to discard or throw out away something we wanted to hang onto for much longer. This is something many of us (myself included) do with prized material items. We enjoy taking something broken and making it shiny, new again. What happens when the item shattered, torn, dismantled, scuffed, wilting or more isn’t material? What happens when its not material, but it’s ourselves that needs to be put back together again?
If I were a vase, I would’ve required the owner to own stock in superglue. I am a woman who has been completely shattered. Scattered porcelain pieces. A large piece my bleeding heart scared from the hurt of relationship heartbreak. A jagged spear of professional shame for not being as successful as I craved to be. A large, shiny fragment representing a physical beating and attack. Splinters of glass from lost friendships that left residual hurt. Shards representing internal struggles with anxiety, depression, trauma, body image, perfectionism, and shame.
I am not a vase, I am a 32 year old woman.
I am also grateful for having been broken.
Being broken has allowed me to examine what was under the surface needing to be fixed before being put back together.
Being broken has forced me to be human.
I use the vase analogy, because I have an imaginary doctorate in the “quick fix” theory. My lifelong dissertation of covering up hurt has consisted of temporary stitches, band aids, duct tape hems…you name it. The quick fix to my heart and healing have only allowed the cracks to permeate deeper, and be more profound when “dropped again.” Deep down this has always made me feel like a fraud, like I have been plagiarizing my life to appear, “whole, happy, unmarred.” A identify with the vase’s beauty above the real cracks. Just as some injuries are meniscal, I have realized my biggest traumas have forced me to pick up the other shards I’ve been piecing together. To admit to myself, at some point, a huge crack was going to put things in perspective to me.
That huge break to me was an aggressive physical and sexual assault. It broke the vase in half, and took along with a few other deteriorating pieces. This break shouldn’t have ever happened, but it did. It is exhausting to appear polished and perfect all the time. Its also a catch-22 to be honest, vulnerable that parts of your life are a struggle; wouldn’t want to called a complainer or a whiner after all. I could point a finger at the largest break and allow everything else to be placated on that one occurrence.
Doing just that will never glue me back together again. It would be a façade. The reality is trauma, truly and profoundly changes a person. I have come to realize, its not just the initial trauma. Its being forced to look at everything else about ourselves that has been hurt, that we’ve tried to move past, that we didn’t allow ourselves to feel, or (ouch) that we weren’t honest with ourselves about. I will never be grateful for my “big break” or assault, but I have to be honest with myself (and others) that I have (had) other pieces that needed to be put back together.
I am strong enough to hold a bouquet of flowers these days, but there are still cracks not properly adhered.
Just as old antiques with flaws are stunning, there really, truly is beauty in the human breakdown.