I haven’t set a resolution in years, at least not in the traditional sense. I don’t do Dry January, set ‘challenge’ goals, or do couch to 5k…mostly because none of it is something I particularly care about. However, the reality of it is I drink very little and I hate to run and challenges always seem like a nightmare of second guessing and recrimination.
Instead, I pick a word and then live the next 12 months living the spirit of that word. This year my word is Kintsugi.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver, or platinum powder. The goal is to emphasize the imperfection and the existence of the repair rather than to try to hide it or dispose of the item because it is broken. Embracing imperfection and showing the repair is part of what makes kintsugi art.
When you apply the same concepts to your life, you have a perfect metaphor for addressing some of the things in your life that may feel, or actually be, broken. Which is why I chose the word. I decided 2021 was the year I was going to pick through all the shadowy spaces inside me and make some choices about what I could keep and reframe and turn into a triumph instead of an embarrassment, and what I could finally throw away. I wanted to focus on the shards of memories that included regret, shame, and any kind of pain because the sharp edges were cutting deeper and deeper as time went on and I was tired of it.
How have I done so far? Good question, I’m glad you asked.
It has been amazing to have a guide in the form of kintsugi. I bought myself a small delicate bowl that had been lacquered back together in true kintsugi form and now every day when I look at it I am reminded to either repair or reject the things that pop into my head. Sometimes that means deciding I need to do some work around an issue or memory and I spend time journaling or listing things I need to think about, and sometimes it means being in touch with how it feels to have that particular shard poke at me. Some are a dull ache because they are minor, or so old their power is almost gone. Some are sharp, either because the memory is new or because it was so powerful it has lost little of its potency over time.
I understand that this kind of ‘resolution’ isn’t for everyone but for me it is a far more effective way to start fresh in a new year.
Why? Good question, I’m glad you asked.
Not everyone sees mental health, or a lack of mental health, as a real thing. I’ve watched children get told to walk it off or man up, and I’ve watched adults say suck it up buttercup or tell someone they are weak for crying or letting something emotional have power over them. Not only do I think that is an inaccurate assumption, I know I’ve seen children handle issues with grace and aplomb while immeasurably sad and I’ve seen some of the strongest adults I know, cry and express their fears. Mental health is not about being stoic, powering through, or forcing something, or someone, to work. Mental health is about finding a balance between times you need to be physically present and aware and in charge of a situation and the times that you simply don’t. There are always going to be things you need to do and things someone else can. Modern society has created a cult of do more, do it better, have it all people, who can’t, or don’t know how to, slow down.
Why does that matter? Because I was one of those people. I had to do it all. I had to figure it out myself. I had to be strong. Until I wasn’t. Until I couldn’t be anymore. Luckily I have great friends and family who stepped in when I felt like I had lost control and helped me see it wasn’t that I had lost anything but that I needed to find balance. There is nothing wrong with being strong and capable and a go-getter. You just can’t go at 110% forever. Eventually your mind and body need a break.
Here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter what you choose to do or how you do it. That’s personal, and I wouldn’t dream of telling someone they have to do things my way. However, having failed at going flat out all the time I can say that if that is how you are living it is only a matter of time before you need to find some way to release the buildup of stress. Maybe that’s a vacation, maybe it’s the gym or a yoga class, maybe it’s mindfulness activities like coloring mandalas, maybe it’s meditation. It actually doesn’t matter as long as you figure out what works for you and then embrace it as part of your self-care regimen.