Hello to you, you wonderful person you. Though, if you’re Ireland-based, you may not feel too wonderful today as it’s Monday 18th March and you may well have painted the town green yesterday. St. Patrick did heaps for Ireland in ridding us of those pesky snakes, but if he knew us at all he could have somehow bargained with the Big Man to grant us just one fecking day where we miraculously avoided a hangover. That would have been a really valuable gift! Struggle on, dear reader, and if you don’t have a cuppa tay and a breakfast roll in you at this stage, have you even hangovered at all?!
It’s been quiet on the blog front as I keep the head down and oscillate through the heaving to and fro’ of life. Up’s and down’s a-plenty and never a dull day lately, but spring is springing and I don’t mind to say that there’s a fair oul stretch in the evening!
I’ve never been one for mantras or affirmations. I leave that to those who have a much stronger daily discipline than I, and if I’m honest, I have never found a sentiment or statement that would be strong enough to have relevance and value to me day-in, day-out…that is until recently when I uncovered a beautiful Japanese phrase.
I utterly adore Japanese culture and am constantly mystified by their curious ability to complicate seemingly simple actions (a cup of tea as an entire ceremony) and, in contrast, to simplify extraordinary complex concepts. One such concept is that of Wabi Sabi (侘寂), for which there is no direct English translation but I will try to break it down here for you.
This premise of Wabi Sabi lies in the concept that Japanese aesthetics hold an appreciation for the innate beauty in impermanence, imperfection, rusticness, ruggedness etc. Wabi Sabi is a respect for what is, perhaps, slightly broken or bruised, modest and frail etc.
The ancient history of the concept of Wabi Sabi is linked to the fundamental Buddhist philosophy that we should make peace with our nature as transitional creatures and embrace aging, imperfection; finding beauty in our shared experience of imperfection and frail humanity. Wabi Sabi does not seek to cover up our cracks or chaos, but creates space for respect through appreciation of imperfection.
Wabi Sabi your home
Doing a little digging on the concept of Wabi Sabi, I have found that it’s fairly widely embraced as a method for decorating your home. Google image search it and you will find endless methods for perfect application of a rustic paint effect paired with a cracked bowl to seamlessly recreate a relaxed ambiance. And while that could certainly be an interpretation, I can’t help but think that perhaps it misses the point slightly? I was much more interested in how I could turn the concept inwards and use it as a mechanism to start making room to love my own cracks and damage. Could there be some space for me to apply some Wabi Sabi-style forgiveness?
Wabi Sabi does not seek to cover up our cracks or chaos, but creates space for respect through appreciation of imperfection.
Wabi Sabi your soul
I wouldn’t call myself competitive in that I have never really found myself in active competition with others around me; not consciously anyway. I don’t enjoy team sports and don’t get a thrill from beating an opponent. However, I have always sought perfection and one-upmanship with myself. It is an exhausting process of constantly pushing for more or better; never giving myself a chance to breathe or enjoy. Never forgiving frailty, and constantly beating myself down for errors. In the past year or so I have been aware of that habit and the unrealistic expectations to which I hold myself and often others. Becoming more aware of this endogenous source of pressure, I have consciously tried to make a little more room for mistake and forgiveness, and if I’m honest it’s a continuous journey of learning. Sometimes I have to consciously check myself and register some unhealthy patterns of behaviour, and that’s ok.
There is also a small comfort in knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am not alone. As a modern woman I am one of the millions of us trying to flourish while also putting ourselves under huge amounts of guilt and pressure as Moms, best friends, sisters, cousins etc. While trying to be all things to all people, we also try to fill in our cracks, polish over our greys, lie about our darkest anxieties to create an image of perfection. It’s never-ending. It’s exhausting. It’s completely unfeasibly.
You deserve a Wabi Sabi break
So here, take my mantra. I want you to have it. Try it on for size. Embrace your wobbly bits, dark circles, dry skin, nobbly corners and moments of irrational sadness and forgive yourself with the words “Wabi Sabi”. Your imperfections do not define you, but they do mean that you are still here. Pushing through and living on. Flourishing and nourishing.
Wear your cracks with pride and learn to love your imperfections with a reassuring whisper of “Wabi Sabi” when you need it most…and find some solace in the fact that I’m probably right there with you, inviting some Wabi Sabi into my days too.
“I keep trying to pick up your pieces
and glue you back together.
then pretend you’re all shiny and new.
But maybe all this time you’ve just wanted
to shine by beaming imperfection and truth”
From Musings From The Moon by Jenna Ramondo
P.S. I cannot tell you how hard it was to try to select one passage from this beautiful book of prose, which was shared with me by one of my wonderfully Wabi Sabi friends from across the world. I still well up every time I touch its pages because knowing that there are others who can sympathise with my weaknesses gives me strength I never knew I had.