Shattered vases

Shattered vases

Every person has their share of things happen in their life that are–for lack of a better word–crappy. Bad things. “Tragic” things. Most of the time when things happen that throw us down, we get up, brush ourselves off and keep going. Let me tell you something if you don’t already know it. I have had my share of “tragedies” in my life. Times when I am knocked so hard to the ground I wonder how I will ever get back up let alone keep going. When things like that happen, people around you tell you how “strong you are” again and again. You nod and want to say, “You think so? How naive! What choice do I have?!” (At least I have wanted to say that at times.)

Each time you go through “the bad stuff” you feel your strength weaken at the seams. That mighty tower that stood the first time you went through the tough times is hardly the same structure. You feel more like a sand castle than a mighty tower of strength. So, what happens when that one thing you didn’t see coming happens? That one thing that cuts you to the core and knocks you flat on your back? What happens after that blow that knocks you so flat that you just cannot get up again? Not one more time. You are broken.

a broken vaseI imagine having a beautiful vase. An antique. Irreplaceable. Vintage. That one-of-a-kind art that once had that new sheen to it but is now a bit faded and chipped. Age, life and being handled has changed not only the look but the feel of it. It is cherished in its own way. Then it gets knocked to the floor. Shattered. Shards of its former glory spread all over. Piece by piece you painstakingly try to put it back together. Hours become days become weeks become months. At last, the final piece is glued back in place. The problem? Part of it is missing. What if that part is in the very center–the very core– of the vase? No matter what you do, that piece will always be missing. Trying to fill it with replacements doesn’t work. Each one just falls out as soon as there is any pressure on it.

It isn’t really a vase anymore. It can no longer do what it was meant to do. A piece of crap now or still a piece of art? I guess this is the point where you decide what is best… finding a new–unique purpose for the vase, trashing it or just letting it sit on the shelf gathering dust and having no purpose; therefore, rendering itself useless? No matter how many times you go back to it and try to fill that missing piece, nothing works. Nothing.

What if you are that vase? Life shattered you. You try so hard to put it all back together, but no matter what you do none of it fits together anymore. Rearranging pieces of your life– friends, work, family– doesn’t make them fit back into place as neatly as they once did. No matter how hard you try or yell or cry or bargain or beg. What then? I can tell you I have been pretty much sitting on the shelf gathering dust. Every once in a while I will see a new way to rearrange things and think they fit, but once the pressure is on, I crack and everything spills out again.

I have been in Houston for a while. Dad had some medical stuff that I wanted to be here for. (He’ll be fine.) But as I have been here I have seen my sister and my Dad and recognized myself– my pain– mirrored in them. I found the one place where broken fits. Where laughing over the inappropriate is standard. Where crying because for the love of all things holy my coffee just did not taste right is perfectly acceptable and not at all uncalled for. A rational act in our irrational world. We’re like the Island of Misfit Toys. None of us have all of our pieces and that is the normal way to be. It is a cozy cocoon. A haven. A place where the broken work together and somehow manage to just get through. Safe.

But this version of safe doesn’t mean whole or unbroken. Just safe— to “live” that way.

How do you rearrange things to work again in your real life? How do you get up from a blow that shattered so badly no one is saying how “strong” you are. You feel pitied, written off or forgotten. Sometimes all three. Sometimes in the places you didn’t count on from the most unexpected people. Moving on. Picking up. Rearranging. Worse…finding the strength and will to rearrange, pick up and move on. That part is the kicker.

As many times as I have been knocked down, beaten down and broken, never have I been shattered to a point where I can’t find a way to brush myself off. Partly because I have wanted to get through and move forward. What do you do when all you want to be is that damn vase before it shattered? What happens when you just cannot stop longing to be that pre-destroyed vase? What do you do when you know you can no longer be that damn vase because that piece is never, ever coming back to make it all work and for the love of god you don’t want to be anything else but that old vase? Forget new purpose and new meaning. You want the original to work.

And it doesn’t.

Then what?

This is where I normally give you a pithy little wrap up and answer my own question. This time? I’ll be damned if I have any answers for you.

Or for me.


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