I received a beautiful poem about repair from my spiritual teacher, Dale Goldstein that inspired me to write this blog post. The poem is called The Joins by Chana Bloch. I have separated the poem into smaller parts for the sake of commenting on each segment.
What’s between us
often seems flexible as the webbing
between forefinger and thumb.
Seems flexible, but it’s not;
what’s between us
is made of clay,
like any cup on the shelf.
It shatters easily. Repair
becomes the task.
The beginning of this poem reminds us that relationships are fragile, and that life is uncertain. Like pottery made of clay, the foundation of a relationship is made of pliable, soft memories that has been lovingly molded and forged in heat to hold its shape. Relationships begin with tender moments of discovery, secrets shared, and stories created. Through repeated experiences of coming back to our partners, admiring each other, and building safety and trust, we begin to experience the relationship and perhaps our lives together as solid, firm, and predictable. But we must never forget that what is underneath is just like clay: we can break each other’s hearts, shatter trust, and put a crack in the foundation with our behavior and words.
Cups on the shelf can shatter easily and not always because of deliberate neglect. Our hearts and love for each other can break the same way. Broken promises and disappointments are inevitable. Relationships that never face a moment of crisis that comes from experiences of doubt or anger are rare and perhaps even unhealthy. So if relationships can shatter like cups on a shelf, then repair becomes the primary skill we need to bring to the table. Repair is like the glue that accepts breakage as a part of life.
We glue the wounded edges
with tentative fingers.
Scar tissue is visible history,
the cup more precious to us
we saved it.
Relationships that have overcome odds and survived challenges carry scar tissue. We cannot move through a complex journey such as staying in a committed intimate relationship without collecting some scars. Scar tissue is not a sign of damage. In fact, the presence of scars is a testament to the staying power of the attachment bond. Right after a moment of crisis, our faith may be shaky, we may mend the relationship with mixed feelings of hope and doubt, or fear and sadness. Our fingers are tentative just like our hearts. As time passes however, the strength of the relationship bond grows and the two survivors in it begin to feel a sense of pride and confidence. “We have been through a lot and we are still going strong”, we might say to our friends. We begin to see the relationship as special and unique because all around us we see the debris of failed commitments and broken bonds in other relationships. Just as the poem suggests, the relationship that has been mended over and over again becomes more precious for the deposits of energy, effort, and dreams we have invested in it.
they say the potter
may have broken the cup
just so he could mend it.
By Chana Bloch
Kintsugi is a Japanese art form based on repairing broken objects. There is a sense of spirituality and mindfulness behind this artistic form that speaks to all of life’s challenges. The potter repairs the broken cup or pottery with an aesthetic that sees the damage in the object as an opportunity for something creative, new, and beautiful to emerge. The approach symbolizes a life lesson that invites us to value that which is long-standing, faithful, and worn at the edges more than a shiny new thing. It invites us to see repair not only as an act of redemption but as an act of resistance against our cultural programming to discard that which is old, broken, faded, or worn out.
By sprinkling powdered gold into the resin that is used to mend the cracks, the potter goes beyond simple repair. When applied to relationships, the powdered gold implies that the process of repair is just as precious as the thing we are trying to save. The powdered gold is the vulnerability and courage we need to sprinkle in relationship repair. By repairing after a conflict, we are saying we will not be satisfied with just sealing over and hiding the crack in our bond. Repair encourages us to engage in a mindful collaborative process of sharing our thoughts and feelings, our enduring vulnerabilities, and our deep-seated tenderness so that we can find greater closeness and intimacy at the end. Repair becomes the embodiment of the exquisite attunement in the relationship. What this poem shows us is that repair does not live in the margins of a relationship. It is center, the ground zero of intimacy where two imperfect souls can come together and discover the precious gold between them that will forge a stronger loving bond forever.