Rachel Kosin-Yo Becker
A few weeks ago, our Sensei gave a talk on imperfection. I thought the fact that he gave this talk was serendipitous. Earlier that morning I had walked by some spots on the carpeting in the hall of my house. Looking at the spots I thought, “Ugh! Why did I pick this carpeting! It’s too light-colored. After 6 and a half years it looks like crap. I should probably pull it up and put in hardwood.” I was finding it too difficult to look at the stains.
Then, after the compassionate listening, the chanting, and the 20-minute meditation, Sensei started talking about, “Kintsugi”, the art of putting broken pottery back together with gold. It has become a metaphor for embracing your flaws and imperfections. As Sensei spoke about our culture and how we try to always be perfect I reflected on myself. I thought about the many pictures I have of my children when they were younger. My children are now all adults, but of course they were once tiny tots. We took many trips with our children and with the many vacations came many pictures. I
remember when the pictures would come back from being developed. You see, my children were born in the 1990s- back in the days of cameras, flashbulbs and film. We didn’t have and endless supply of photos coming through smartphones. We would take the photos and then wait patiently for them to come back in prints from our drugstores or Walmarts. When I opened the pictures I was often disappointed. The kids looked great! But I never thought I looked great. I thought I was lumpy, or too fat. As the kids grew I spent less and less time in front of the camera with them. I was uncomfortable with how I looked in print. I wanted the pictures of my children to be beautiful memories. I felt that my image in the pictures made the pictures ugly. It was if they were like those stains on my home carpeting. In 2001, my family moved to Southampton, England. There were so many memories to be made! We traveled around Europe, stopping in Amsterdam, Rome, Northern Ireland, and parts of France. Everywhere we went I minimized the amount of time I spent facing the camera with my children. I believed that they would look better with me out of the picture (no pun
In the 20 years since that time a lot has changed. My children have grown up. More memories have been made. Smartphones have been created so that we can immediate look at our photos and try to get a better one if we don’t like what we see. I have also changed. It’s taken quite a long time, and I’ve grown to accept myself. I’ve even grown to embrace myself. In the fall of 2021 I emblazoned my body with my first tattoo. It’s the title of a book, on my left inside forearm. My arm now states, “The Body is not an Apology.” No longer will I hide my body. No longer will I state that my body is not good enough to be doing the activities I want to do. No longer will my body be kept from photos that memorialize the experience that I am having. No longer will I let someone else’s interpretation of what a body should look like determine how I should act. My body is a special, miraculous, splendid person who deserves to share her beautiful imperfections.
This past holiday season, my children came to visit. It was magical for me. It was the first time since the winter of 2019 that all 3 children were in the same house together. We all celebrated the connection. After sharing our holiday dinner with friends, I spoke up. “Please”, I asked. “Can someone take a picture of the 4 of us together?” I wanted to keep the beautiful memory of this moment in time. The 4 of us sat on the couch and a friend snapped a few smartphone shots, using my phone. I saved them all. None of the images were altered, cropped or removed. Not even the one where my youngest son was staring at the ceiling.
So when Sensei finished his dharma talk and the gathering ended, I went back and looked at the stains on my carpet. I was reminded that my son and his dog (my grand-pup) came to visit. Did the dog leave these spots on the carpet? Possibly. It was wonderful to see my son and his pet. I love them dearly and I appreciate they made the time to visit me. What about this other spot? It was right next to the entry from my garage. I probably came in from a hike or a visit to a garden and made that spot on the floor. How fortunate I am to live in these mountains and have the opportunity to walk in nature. So it makes a spot on the carpet – big deal! If I replace this carpet with hardwood the memories will be gone. Perhaps if I just try and clean the spots. They
probably won’t come up but they will be less obvious. They will provide the gold that
Kintsugi provides to make piece with that damn