Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
There was an art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in 1990. Thieves, masquerading as authority figures, brazenly walked in and made off with thirteen works of art. They took what was not theirs. They were never caught, never punished- what was stolen, never recovered.
Priceless works of art, including pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet, just GONE. What do you do when something like that happens? Well, there are a few ways to approach it. The museum certainly could have acquired new pieces, or shifted existing works to fill the void. After all, the walls of a famous museum are valuable real estate.
That is not what they did.
They chose, instead, to honor the loss. The paid tribute to those things they knew were irreplaceable by leaving empty space. They wanted people to acknowledge and remember what was stolen. They are works of art, those empty golden frames. It was one of the most moving parts of my visit. Those vacant frames affected me more than the countless masterpieces I stood in front of that day.
After my last post, I had many women message and email me. They told me the stories of their stolen childhoods- for a couple, it was their first time telling anyone. Ever.
They said, “ME TOO.”
People really are unimaginably brave.
Some have put the pieces back together, with therapy, and faith, and grit, and sheer determination. Some are just starting that journey. They are just beginning that archeological dig into their past- sifting through the wreckage of their memories, finding the shards amidst the dirt. Trying to figure out what goes where. Attempting to find the pieces that are still missing, worried they may be gone forever.
They might be.
I have pieces that are gone forever.
Here is the good news- and there is good news.
One of the marks of a great artist is knowing what to do with negative space. Your life is a canvas, and you are the artist. YOU are. You can find new pieces to fill in where parts are missing, or you can leave those empty spaces. You can honor what was lost that way, too.
There is beauty in that.
Do you guys know what kintsukuroi is?
Kintsukuroi translated from Japanese means golden repair. It is the art of fixing broken pottery with resin and powdered precious metals. It speaks to honoring the breakage as part of the history of an object, rather than attempting to hide it.
It is BEAUTIFUL.
I am not who I would have been, had I not been abused. I will never know what the unbroken version of me might have looked like.
That’s okay. I am finally okay with that.
I have made my repairs where I can, and I am honoring my empty spaces- because they are valuable real estate. My golden repairs helped me to survive, but my empty spaces led me to this place, with you. And I am so glad to be here.
After my last post I spent a lot of time wondering, “What’s next?” The response I got makes it clear to me that there is a deep hunger for this conversation.
I want to create a place where we can bring our broken pieces. Bring them here. Hold them in your outstretched hands, and say, “SEE? This happened to me.” And we will LOOK. We will honor what was lost- and together, as a dear friend of mine is fond of saying, we will make this shit holy.
In a few breaths’ time I will speak some sad words to you. But you must hear them as we have agreed to see scars now. Sad words are just another beauty. A sad story means the storyteller is alive. The next thing you know, something fine will happen to her, something marvellous, and then she will turn round and smile.
Chris Cleave, Little Bee
grace to survive says
I honor this post as the piece of art that it is. Such beauty.
In Others' Words says
thank you. xo
A gift to all who read this <3
My situation is different than yours – I did not suffer child abuse – and yet the same as I went through a traumatic event (the sudden ending of my 37 year marriage). While your post is metaphorical, it is sage advice. Too often people are advised to ‘get over’ bad events and when they cannot it makes them feel lesser beings. Over the past three years, I have learned that It is far better for me to learn how to carry the scars, but to do it with grace and dignity. Your post was wonderful in showing me how it is possible to do that.
I love both your quotes. They are well-chosen.
In Others' Words says
I had a marriage implode, too. Loss is loss is loss, pain is pain, is pain. We don’t get “over” these things. We get through them. Here’s to our beautiful scars, Elizabeth. xo
April Delor says
I was sexually, physically and emotionally abused. My abuse was started at age 5 by a family member who was a very young preteen boy..it went on for years..then by a man that my mom dated for years..he was an alcoholic and drug user…I told my mom of both situations in which she denied and she ignored it…this man also beat my mother. He whooped us with belts and broke stuff and robbed us of our childhood. It was hard and I grew up fast protecting and providing safety for my little sister…I was angry at my mom for always choosing men over her kids. That abuse leaked over into my life, abusive relationships, wreck less behavior, drinking as an 11 year old experimenting with drugs, skipping school and becoming a teen mom who raised her daughter mainly alone. BUT I graduated high school on time, went to college right away, received 2 degrees, always had a job or 2 so I could support my daughter etc…. what I did learn is that I AM NOT ALL THOSE THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME…they are all part of a greater story God has given to me..to help teen moms, battered women, single moms, moms with teen daughters, victims of all kinds of abuse, knowledge, empathy, sympathy, I’m resourceful, I survived because NOW I have God.. and Because of all those things I see a greater purpose that I fill .. I’m healing…AND IVE CHOSEN FORGIVENESS AS THE HEALING POWER.. without the power to forgive I’d be caring all of this around and I’d be unable to help anyone else…FORGIVENESS IS SELF CARE…it doesn’t mean that by forgiving your saying what happened to me was ok..what your saying is “I’m not going to let unforgiveness block the blessings God has for me and I’m giving it to him and he will deal with what I can’t” ..a thousand pounds was lifted off my shoulders..and I’ve received many blessings because I chose to take care of “me”…forgiveness is always for you not for them..
This is gorgeous, Laura.
In Others' Words says
thank you, Jessica. <3
Tami Coil says
Your wisdom friend that said “We will make this shit holy, is priceless. Everything belongs…..it is where love needs to go. I love that we can have women in this world like you– that are raw, honest and messy. So beautiful, so brave. Spiritual relationships are not to be used as a magic wands, to make one feel better. Getting out your hammer and nails actually destroys the possibility of finding deeper joy, peace and sacred connection with another. Beautiful blog, brave heart. You are a gift.
Wow, what words, what wisdom, thank you
Your blog was sent to me recently and it is so beautifully written. Also, read “the art forger” – reference to art heist you started this post with.
What a beautiful thoughtful post. I too loved LITTLE BEE. And this extension of honoring the empty spaces is brilliant and well put. Thank you.
World Of Warriors gold hack says
I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
Plz answer back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know
where u got this from. cheers
In Others' Words says
I did it myself with the exception of the artwork, which is courtesy of my incredibly talented friend, Jim. You can see more of his work at jrgart.com Good luck!