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