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Notes on the Beauty of Broken Things
I’m a member of a photography group and we began a #365DaysOfGratitude photo challenge. When I prompted myself for my answer to the question what do I feel grateful for today I could only think of brokenness. Today I feel grateful for my brokenness, for my pain, for my trauma, for death, for soul crushing loss, for shattering defeat, for betrayal. Yes, today I feel grateful for my suffering. Yes, today I feel grateful for all the intergenerational trauma I carry within me. Why? What kind of sh1t is that? Why on earth would I feel grateful for my suffering?
Oh, dear reader because suffering is the blueprint of mercy! My suffering is the door to Bismillah. Suffering is how I give birth to myself. I realised today in my rabid ranting, in my awful feelings of crushing defeat, in my naked vulnerability laid bare, in my tears, rage, and screaming at God for the whys and also for relief, begging Him for a sign, for light, for ease—I realised that, in these moments when I hollow myself out and reach for my soul and for the light within it—God—that I am exerting strength, even though I feel spent and weakened and impotent.
Don’t we always feel challenged when we have to lift a heavy load? Don’t we feel a strain when we prepare our bodies, position ourselves, squat, focus on core strength and leg muscles to propel ourselves forward, when we transfer energy from our muscles toward the momentum of moving and lifting the load? We grunt, we scrunch our faces, we bear down, we double down. When the going gets tough the tough get going. Indeed. It takes everything we have—every fibre of our being works toward mobilising this heavy load. We feel it when we near our limit, and we draw inward; watch athletes, they do this.
Grief feels like this: nearing your limit, drawing inward, mustering everything to break through the icy glass surface, trying not to get cut by the jagged shards of your shattered self as you dive into yourself, deeper, deeper still. Emotional and spiritual suffering feels like this—bearing a too heavy load and sinking beneath the surface into a new dimension of yourself. The intangibility of the load deceives us, and we can feel like we aren’t carrying anything when, in fact, we’re carrying the entire universe in our shattered and hollowed out hearts.
Photo by Rukhsana Sukhan (a wine glass was injured in the making of this photo)
The beauty of broken things lies in the mercy required to receive them. It lies in the reality that we can only see the stars in the thickest and blackest night. It lies in the reality of the soupy decay that links the caterpillar to the butterfly. The only way out is through. Day defines night and night defines day. The liminality of suffering frightens and beckons, simultaneously. A seed must split open in order to fulfil it’s purpose. So, I am grateful for my brokenness. In my gratitude, I have transformed a bit of pain into joy. I need to up my sabr game though. I need to have a measure more of mercy with myself as I struggle with the psychology of scarcity. I need to up my Tawakkul game. I need to trust in Allah. I need to steep myself more intensely in Prophetic Wisdom.
Living in the dregs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, at what feels like the edge of survival in a city which caters to the wealthy at the expense of the traumatised and destitute can and does erode the spirit. Sometimes the physical beauty of the land, and the enchantment of the convergence of the forest, mountains and ocean doesn’t compensate for the despair which fuels this place. It’s difficult to remember balance when humans living in a tent village—the Vancouver version of a refugee camp, if you will—has become normalised. Citizens feel apathy and contempt for the poor and struggling and real estate developers are taking the absolute piss by erecting a chandelier under the Granville Bridge as a public art installation. Where has mercy gone? It angers me. So much injustice enrages me, intensifies my low boil. Despair beckons. And I remember Bismillah.
Mercy begins with me. Mercy begins with the story I tell myself. Mercy begins with asking why, and also what can I do, once the emotional dust begins to settle. Mercy means allowing my feelings, and then also allowing proactive work. Mercy means transformation. Mercy means finding joy when I feel joyless. Mercy means laughing through my tears, and ending my raging rants with humorous and ridiculous diatribes of silliness borne out of my imagination. Mercy means making lemonade—squeezing that pulp and pressing out the goodness.
I am a seed, germinating. How beautiful, the brokenness.