By Mary Reitano

What does a beautiful Oriental pottery bowl have to do with hope for the New Year?  Kintsugi is a Japanese art form that takes broken pottery and repairs it using gold veins–creating something more beautiful than the original item.  This example of brokenness transformed into something wonderful also relates to human beings. 

Most of us have had something in our life fall apart–a broken relationship or another life-changing event that shattered your life and eroded self-confidence.  Perhaps something happened to you over the past year.  Possibly, life and fractured relationships seem like one big puzzle.  Sometimes, tension and arguments explode.  Conversely, there is “emotional cutoff”–when family or friends break off connection.  A breach may be strictly emotional—the person can be physically present, but emotionally distant.  Sometimes people avoid talking, seeing each other or even corresponding.  Rifts grow wider over time, becoming harder to reach across and mend.  But, the New Year can be a fresh start, with many reasons to be hopeful.  

Where to start putting the pieces back together?  A key step is the restoration of hope, believing reconnecting is possible.  Author Flavia Weedn wrote “If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.” You don’t have to figure out the perfect words.  I have seen families reconcile after long separations.  When they reconnected, they broke down in tears and hugged each other.  No words were needed–the pent-up longing for acceptance, love and restoration was the “gold” that healed the breach.  Not every reconciliation is that simple.  Usually, work is needed to re-cement the relationship.  Like Kintsugi art form, the “gold” needed to mend relationships may be costly.  It can involve vulnerability, personal change, sacrifice, professional counseling, compromise, and forgiveness. 

One of my graduate school professors, Dr. Maria Boccia, once told us “If you want to be in a relationship, you better be good at relationship repair.”  It is the norm for any relationship to have rough patches.  It is the nature of all human beings to be imperfect. Some families and people who appear to “have it all together” are actually struggling.  We all know this, but still have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others.  The lyrics in John Legend’s song “All of Me” take a different approach.  He sings “’Cause all of me loves all of you.  Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections.” Relationships can survive and thrive if people continually exercise acceptance, openness, transparency, humility, and grace.  “Grace implies a benign attitude and a willingness…to make concessions (Merriam Webster). Eugene O’Neill, American playwright and Nobel Laureate in Literature, wrote “Man is broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is the glue.”  Relationships which have weathered and survived misunderstanding, arguments, disappointments, failures and even tragedy, are often stronger, deeper and richer for it.

Mary Reitano is a licensed Professional Counselor Associate practicing in Lake Lure. Her focus is positive psychology with a holistic approach addressing emotional, relational, mental, physical and spiritual health. She can be reached at 704-858-2926 or maryalisonreitano@gmail.com.