I have written before about kintsugi, but since I am good at breaking things, and because I feel we are going through a time of repair, I have decided to revisit the topic. Likewise, a lot of things have been revisited during lockdown, so I might write about that as well.
The traditional Japanese art of Kintsugi (金継ぎ) literally means golden (“kin”) and repair (“tsugi”). Precious metal is used – liquid gold or silver for example – to bring the broken pieces together in an artistic celebration of the breaks.
I don’t know about you, but in this slowed down world of limited retail options, my capacity for clumsiness has needed a rethink; I can not keep putting all these broken pieces in the bin for it is not so easy to find replacements. There is a pleasure in delaying that trip to the rubbish tip (the queue is too long anyway), recycling is definitely the way to go and I am more resourceful than I thought. This has led to another guilty lockdown confession – a fascination with youtube tutorials. I am expecting a call from the producers of The Repair Shop and ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ at any time. While I wait, I will fashion a new button hole to allow some more ‘roomage’ on my waistband (I haven’t successfully managed to flatten my curve yet) and disguise my dark roots by learning to curl my hair in a visually distracting fashion.
I am not talking about making things from scratch – I am still daunted by the sour dough mountain my friends have all scaled so impressively so I leave new skills to them. I am talking about repairing or making do. It doesn’t even need to be repairing something physical, it could be getting back in touch with someone, dusting down an old skill or, sticking the sole back on my running shoe with a dab of super glue. I don’t need a handbag these days, but if I was carrying one around, it would contain a can of WD-40 and a pocket power drill instead of my usual lipstick.
As I type this, I can hear Victoria Wood’s voice saying, ‘I remember when pants were pants, you wore them for twenty years and then cut them down for pan scrubs’. I promise I have resisted any calling to make my old knicks into dusters, or an old bra into twin nesting hammocks for local wild birds (naturally, I realise that I will need my underwear for nifty PPE creativity once the world really gets going again), but I have found myself rediscovering items in the back of my wardrobe and realising that although they may have been a mistaken purchase at the time, they are perfectly serviceable now. People only see me from the waist up these days, so if I want to wear thermal long johns (dad’s) under my shorts, I will reward myself for resourcefulness and remember dad in the process.
I am saving a fortune.
Now, while I love this make do repair world – even finding myself eulogising about the original concept of Swap Shop the other day – a little more thinking time has also made me acknowledge that sometimes things just aren’t meant to be mended; they may have served their time and use. Like many I dislike altercation or confrontation and perhaps I wade in to fix things far too readily rather than just letting them pan out. Sometimes things just don’t need fixing, and they may be even better as two – or even three – separate parts. Or, perhaps some things look better and feel better when they are not expected to be perfect.
So, I think it has also been a revelation to myself that just ‘making do’ is ok sometimes, and that people don’t have the high expectations you anticipate they will have; I am discovering that people are agreeably flexible and amenable when things don’t go to plan.
The two examples I can give are both connected with technology and yoga (that feels like an oxymoron, but trust me, like pepper on strawberries, this combination leaves a lovely taste). On Wednesday, when I should have been leading a yoga session for our Be Military Fit crew, frustratingly I was the only person who couldn’t log into the class even though I was supposed to be taking it. When I finally managed to get my yoga mat and leggings on to the screen, the class were patiently lounging on their mats having a good old chat with each other and admiring each others’ living rooms.
Then today I should have been leading a Zoom yoga workshop for runners who run more than they stretch; a lovely number of people had signed up, but none of us could see each other on screen which is not a great recipe for a yoga class. Again, although the class will have to wait to be recycled next Sunday, everyone was lovely about it – I was the one getting yoga love on social media instead of having to apologise to the lovely crew who had all signed in. They all seemed to find the postponement amusing and decided to dust off their trainers to go for a run instead. This is silver lining news of course, because – if they forget to stretch afterwards – the class will be even more in need of yoga in a week’s time.
I am sure that pre- Corona any type of cancellation or delay would lead to a clamour of discontent; in lockdown it seems acceptable to celebrate when things are slow or break down and to just fill the fissure with other opportunities – opportunities to chat, to be grateful that there are other things to do or to just accept that there may be nothing you can do to change the situation. The yoga philosophy just shines through if you take a kintsugi approach to life.
Personally, although I would certainly welcome a return to ‘normal’, I can still appreciate the repair work and reflection that this lockdown is encouraging. I feel my shoulders feeling so much lighter now that I am starting to accept that it is not necessarily my job to fix everything (the yoga also helps those shoulders btw). Wonky, recycled or mended is just fine if you can take pleasure in the process – or the pieces – but there is also no judgement if you walk away and decide that broken or not working is quite entertaining and that even WD-40 may have met its match. I am going to celebrate this break.