My life is messy: I live outside the lines.
It isn’t really on purpose—I try hard to meet some of life’s expectations.
They’re usually communicated to me via my inner critic, though, so I end up feeling like a failure a lot. The past year, practically nothing has gone according to “my plan,” so I spend a considerable amount of time in conversation with that inner critic.
As I have been trying to grow through losing what I thought was the life I was meant to have, I have found more acceptance and appreciation for the life I am actually living and where I am on my journey.
I’ve been broken, but there is beauty in my brokenness. My scars show that I have survived.
My path is not always clear to me, but I can keep moving forward and learn to love the questions.
I was curious to see if there was a word that described this concept of “beauty in brokenness,” and I discovered the Japanese word, wabi-sabi.
Wabi-sabi is the art of imperfection. It is looking at imperfection itself as the beauty. I really connect with this idea. I have so often felt like whatever I was doing just didn’t quite measure up, and looking through this lens of wabi-sabi has helped me to see that where I am and what I bring to the work is enough.
I am not trying to use wabi-sabi as an excuse. But I am trying to bring it to my daily life as a way of seeing that there is beauty in the imperfection all around us.
We don’t look at a tree and think that the bark or the leaves are not perfect enough. Likewise, we shouldn’t look at ourselves or one another in that way.
As I try to bring some peace to my life as it is right now, here are some ways I am looking at my own life differently:
Wabi-sabi and parenting teenagers:
Nothing will make you feel more like a failure as a parent than parenting teenagers. There is very little, if anything, that goes according to plan.
When I look at the beauty that is inherent in their teenage imperfection, I see that the attempts at independence, or self-advocacy, or humor, or responsibility, are beautiful examples of who they are today.
Yes, it is 10:00 a.m. and I cannot get my 15-year-old out of bed, and his room is a disaster, and I would really like to have some help around the house—but his imperfection is still beautiful.
There is something amazing about watching them figure out this growing up thing. And if I can help them to be kinder and gentler to themselves as adults because I can see the beauty in their imperfection now, that is all I would ever need.
Wabi-sabi and the job search:
Searching for a job can be disheartening and frustrating. We can feel deflated and defeated by putting ourselves out there again and again and coming up with nothing.
I have been searching for the right fit for a few months now, and I can’t help but take it personally when I am not selected.
However, if I shift my thinking, I can see what I have learned about myself in every interview. I am able to see what I need from the work I do as well as identify my own skills in terms of experience, rather than just in terms of positions held.
When I am completely honest, I know I am stopping myself from taking the risks I want to take because I am scared I won’t be enough. And if I look at what I have to offer as imperfect, yet beautiful, I will learn to accept that I am where I am meant to be and I will find a way to use that to be of benefit to others and pay the mortgage.
Wabi-sabi and owning a house:
I just bought a house in April after the house we lived in for 13 years was destroyed by a house fire.
To me, the fire was the universe ending that chapter of my life, firmly and with quite a bit of drama. We lost everything in the fire. Photographs, socks, memories, history, that baby blanket that my Grandmother crocheted—everything.
I refused to go back, and instead bought a place.
This new house isn’t perfect, but it is ours. The master bathroom is tiny, there is this unique (ugly) stone that covers one of the walls in the kitchen, I still haven’t found a place for everything, and the cable runs through every room like it is trying to find its way out of a maze, but I wouldn’t change anything. (Okay, I will definitely need to change the cable when I can figure out how.)
We didn’t rip out walls or update everything before we moved in. We are what makes this house beautiful; our cracks and brokenness are trying to heal in this new place. Our new beginning is the beauty and the imperfection.
Wabi-sabi and midlife:
I don’t like to say my age. It makes me feel old and worn.
I am too heavy, I don’t exercise enough, and I love cookies.
Nonetheless, this is me, at what is often referred to as “midlife.” I haven’t had a midlife crisis, I have had a whole slew of midlife crises, or as Brené Brown refers to it, a “midlife unraveling.” I like to imagine that I used to be a beautiful cable-knit sweater and I have now unraveled into a pile of yarn that might make someone a very useful sock.
This time of life is interesting because I feel both the weight and strength of experience. When I shift my thinking to seeing the beauty of my brokenness, I know that I have earned that experience. I know that my body is that of a mother (and of someone who enjoys a few cookies every now and again). I know that my hands can still play piano and write and show love.
I know that although my heart was broken, my spirit has rallied and risen strong.
And I know that I have lived my life out loud and not in the shadows. That is my beauty, even in my brokenness.
That is me, finding peace with my wabi-sabi self.