Monday, January 9, 2012


Broken: Adjective: reduced to fragments; fragmented, ruptured; torn; fractured,not functioning properly; out of working order.

When my son, Josh, was a toddler, Cheerios's came out with a new twist on their oat cereal. Instead of just having the famous and signature "O", they also came out with "X's". It was cute. It was clever. It tasted the same and had all the same healthy reasons for putting the new gimmick on my shopping list. Josh, however, was duly horrified, as only an 18 month old can be. I thought it was so charming to put the X's and O's on the tray of his high chair. Josh looked at the cereal, looked at me, and then began precisely picking up the X's, tossing them off the tray to the waiting vultures (masquerading as dogs). With each flick of his chubby baby wrist, he'd say "Broken!". Nothing I could do would persuade him to even taste one. In his one year frame of reference, his beloved "O-eee-o's" were not supposed to look like that.

This was a parenting annoyance at the time. But, now, 19 years later, I can understand completely how Josh felt. There was a way that his neatly ordered world was supposed to be. He was accustomed to his snack looking a particular way. It gave Josh stability knowing what he should expect. His passionate rejection of the 'different' was not unlike how an adult might feel when her world is turned upside down. What Josh experienced as baby, on a much smaller scale, many of us discover, to our horror, as grown ups. "Broken" can mean a wide variety of things to us. It might be that a marriage fails. Or a family member dies. Or a debilitating, scary illness is diagnosed. It may be being downsized from a career. It could mean that our belief system is shattered, our hearts are crushed, our friendships aren't steady and our mind can't grasp the changes. Broken can mean that the worlds we work so hard to create for ourselves are in nothing more than a gossamer scarf, holding together the fragile pieces that fit together within the delicate folds. 

Over the past year, I've been exploring the concept of brokenness, as it applies to body, mind and spirit. This wasn't intentional. I had no choice in the matter of my body. Cancer is an all powerful, indiscriminate leveler, particularly when one has had the disease more than once. My strength through yoga failed me. I was physically broken, emotionally drained and intellectually flummoxed. How does a non-smoking, organic eating yogini get a rare form of cancer more than once? I was angry. I wanted to power through, to be the little engine that could", to deny that this disease would have any long term effects on me. I refused to allow myself to be broken. I wouldn't stand for it. How very wrong I was! How naive, and how foolish. I wish I could back in time. I wish I could take myself by the hand and say, "You will be broken. You will be challenged. Nothing will be easy. With every step forward, there will be two steps back and to the side. You will not reemerge the same woman. You will be different. You will be changed. You will be splintered. But, you will survive and create something new from the pieces."

After yet another setback last week, I wanted to cry out to the heavens, "Seriously?" But, I realize that there is still more for me to learn. There is always more for me to learn. Perhaps that's the lesson in all of this; no matter how well I think I've put the pieces back together, they seem to twirl out of my hands, crashing to the floor and creating even more fragments for me to contemplate. It's not the breaking that matters. Regardless of how I feel about it, I'm beginning to realize that the brokenness itself may very well be the lesson. It may be that I need to continuously learn humility; that I must deliberately look at each fragment and wonder what it has to teach me. It may also just be a crappy deal that I'm stuck with, and if I don't want to end up as a bitter, hate-filled old biddy, I'd better learn how to dwell with what is, rather than focusing on what is not.

Like a mosaic work of art, made from bits of shattered glass, I need to learn how to see the beauty in brokenness. I need to appreciate what is broken. Why? Because it's healthier than the alternative. One never knows: something exquisite may yet be created. I just have the humbling task of trying to discern what 'it' will be.