Last night my daughter Nikki came to my bedroom. “I broke your mug,” she said.
“Which one?” I asked.
“The orange and blue one,” she said.
“Too bad,” I said. “I like that one, but at least it’s not my favourite. I forgive you.”
A few minutes later she came back. “I was wrong,” she said. “It was the one that says ‘love more’ on it.”
“Oh dear,” I said. “That’s my favourite. But I still forgive you.”
This morning I went to the kitchen to survey the damage. Five pieces of broken pottery. Never to hold my favourite tea again.
I got out the Gorilla Glue to patch it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to drink hot tea out of it, but I thought I’d at least be able to use it as a pen holder.
And then inspiration hit. Kintsugi. The Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold seams, believing that the piece is made more beautiful by its brokenness.
After the glue was dry, I coloured over the crack with gold paint. I showed Nikki. Her eyes lit up. “Oh! It’s like Japanese art now!” she said.
“Yes,” I said. “More beautiful for the wound.”
After repairing the mug, I drove Nikki to her art class at university and then headed to a coffee shop to work until meeting my client at noon. On the way to the coffee shop, I drove past the graveyard where my son is buried. Just as I was driving past, an eagle flew low in the sky over my head. Chills ran up my spine.
Since the eagle appeared to my sister and I just before Mom died, I have associated eagles with my mom’s ongoing presence in my life. When I shared the eagle story in a class I was teaching last year, an Indigenous student came to me at break and said “in my culture, we believe that eagles carry our prayers to the Creator.”
And so, in that moment in my van, I felt both my Mom’s presence and my son’s presence. And the presence of the Creator.
And my thoughts returned to my gold-painted broken mug.
“More beautiful for the wound.”
Yes, like the mug, I am more beautiful for the wound. I am more beautiful because I know the pain of grief. I am more beautiful because I have walked through deep valleys. I am more beautiful because I have learned the meaning of grace. I am more beautiful because I have let people crack my heart open. I am more beautiful because I have known deep love and immeasurable grief.
Sure, there are many days when I wish my mug were whole again, when I wish my mom and my dad and my son were still in my life, but I know the deep veins of gold their passing left in my life and for that I am grateful.
Yesterday, after I launched A Soulful Year: a mandala workbook for ending one year and welcoming another, I received one of the most beautiful pieces of feedback I’ve gotten since starting this work. Someone who’d worked through A Spiral Path recently had now purchased A Soulful Year, and said this: “Heather, I have to tell you how meaningful The Spiral Path has been for me. I find your writing so meaningful and honest – it goes way deeper than most of what I read and prompts I undertake. Thank you so much for your offerings.
Way deeper. Yes, that’s where I dare to take people who are willing. Deeper into love, deeper into their grief, deeper into lament, and deeper into life. Because I want them to experience those veins of gold that can only happen when you do deep work, acknowledging your brokenness and daring to drip molten gold into the cracks.
Early in this work, I had to occasionally fight with that voice in my head that said “If only your work wasn’t so deep, you might sell more of it and make a decent living at this. People are looking for quick fixes, easy answers, and shallow dives that make them feel good but mostly help them avoid the deep stuff. You’re always talking about grief and lament and shadows – how do you expect people to engage with that heavy stuff?”
Despite the voice of self-doubt, I stuck with it, even when it seemed my work was picking up little traction. I stuck with it because I believe in the deep work. I believe that to truly heal ourselves and heal the world, we need to be willing to take an honest look at our brokenness and to begin the hard work of making friends with our shadows.
Because the world will continue to be more and more broken if we stay in the shallow end of the pool. We’ll continue to over-consume because we’ll be looking for the quick fix that shopping gives us. We’ll continue to wound each other because we don’t recognize the way that wounded people wound people. We’ll continue to create divisions between races, between genders, and between countries, because we’ll be afraid of the kind of deep and honest conversations that are needed.
Yes, I’m willing to stay in the deep end of the pool, even if it never turns me into a millionaire. Because I believe in the transformational power of that deep vein of gold weaving through my wounds.
And I am so grateful that, now that I’ve been in this work for four years, more and more people are finding me here in the deep end. Because they believe in this work too.
Welcome to the deep end of love.
p.s. If you want to do your own deep work, check out A Soulful Year. Also, registration is now open for Mandala Discovery which starts in January.