I have been traveling now for the past two years or so to nearly 11 countries in total –One adventure I am currently in the midst of. When I reflect on this, my mind is flooded by memories of experiences: cultures, people, places, sensations, distinct smells, and some of the most incredible sights I have had the pleasure to see in my life so far.
There has been a lot of motion and constant going for the majority of my travels abroad even despite being in a few places for long periods of time. I naturally started to crave somewhere I could settle a bit and now that I have, it has allowed for some very interesting reflections.
This year’s theme for me is ‘repair’. But the interesting thing about repair is that it doesn’t occur unless something is broken first. Let me explain.
Throughout my travels, I’ve grown accustomed to this very basic simple black backpack. All travelers have their ‘go to’ item and I would feel a definite void if I ever forgot this one. When I myself was new to traveling and a bit hesitant as to whether I could handle all that was to come, having my backpack made me feel a bit more prepared. It was my lifeline and the main object from home that somehow kept me grounded because it was like I was taking a part of home with me wherever I would go. I grew to appreciate how it wasn’t very fancy, no special features, it had the right amount of pockets, could carry way more than it appeared it could, it was the perfect size for fitting in those tight spaces on buses, trains, and airplanes. It wasn’t until recently that a huge rip in the side started to allow a hole to widen a little more each day in which things could pass through or get caught on. My first passing thought was, “Oh, I’m going to have to get a new bag now… I guess it’s just time…”
One day I was in my house reluctantly looking at my bag wondering what I was going to do when the idea popped into my head that I should try to repair it first. I was taught how to sew by my great grandmother when I was six and I began to feel convinced that I should try to use this skill set and put it to good use. It really would be such a shame if I was going to have to throw away this perfectly good backpack all because of one rip. I searched for my sewing kit, took out the black thread, and carefully ran it through the eye of the delicate needle in my hand. It took some time to make sure my sewing would hold and be enough to handle any further wear on my bag which it would inevitably have. It took patience but something about the act of this repairing was therapeutic. –To feel the course and tightly woven black strands glide under my fingertips. Ah this is what experience feels like. So many memories kept safe there like my own precious secret.
That’s when I became aware of the wonderful opportunity before me to take an introspective look at my own personal growth. My backpack had a lesson to teach me. An idea to enlighten me with. You see, the truth is I don’t think my old self would have wanted to deal with the investment it would take to repair broken things. I think that even if the thought had still managed to pass my mind that it would have quickly faded with the knowledge of “Well why would I waste my time repairing this backpack when I could just get another one at the store?” Immediately my desire would have been satisfied with one transaction and my bag, no less, would be brand new. No longer carrying the worn look this one had tenderly acquired through our adventures together. No longer needing my attention or to be repaired.
As I watched the thread pull together the torn material and join it once more I felt gratitude for the insight I had come to gain with this very simple but profound action with my material possession. “It’s just a backpack though!” some might say, “What could we find that is profound in that?” But what if I told you that for me it makes me remember the repair that I never thought I would be capable of doing for myself?
Being human is a tantamount adventure. It’s tough to even want to wake up and be sometimes. The world throws you around and we become so painfully aware of what fragile beings we really are. And if it’s not a physical hurt you experience then the emotional, spiritual, and mental pain will definitely be a thing of your worst nightmares.
We have imperfections and faults within ourselves that make a task like self- acceptance and self-love seem unachievable. Maybe we could even say that our lack of knowledge on how to do this gets translated into, not only how we regard taking care of ourselves but likewise, how we in turn treat everyone around us. We have somehow grown accustomed to writing off the responsibility we have to take care of ourselves first and secondly others as unimportant or something that doesn’t take hard work to maintain. There is a difference between making a few good choices in how to regard one’s health as opposed to recognizing the urgency to prioritize our lives and our bodies now. And further, make an active and ongoing commitment to say ‘yes’ to life.
Choosing to practice self-love and acceptance is not something that happens overnight. It is actually quite a daunting process in itself and it can be so incredibly painful. It means accepting the light and dark parts within you. It means coming to terms with very confronting things about oneself. It means letting go of bottled up pain acquired from hurtful experiences and learning to accept them and move forward. It means being gentle with ourselves about when we make mistakes and owning up to our past regrets rather than creating an alternative narrative to a situation that better suits the image we want to keep of ourselves. It means being honest in our intentions every time we act or speak. It means understanding that we are not perfect and being able to accept our shortcomings as they are but not feel less because of them. And it means making the effort to revisit each of these things as often as necessary because our human tendency is to accumulate burdening and hindering baggage throughout our days. I believe this is why there is the famous quote which states, “We cannot love another before we learn to love ourselves”. How could we possibly know what those around us need or are trying to communicate to us that they need if we don’t know in relation to ourselves first?
Mending is a process. It takes work. But it is so worth it in the end.
Repairing my backpack didn’t seem like quite a daunting feat this time. Because I’ve been improving on my own journey of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-repair, I find that lately I am naturally making decisions to take care of things external to me. I know how to do it well with myself so I in turn see ‘brokenness’ as a process now. I don’t look at the world and see myself, others, or even my material possessions as doomed to be in a final state. There is a lot of uncertainty that exists around self-love and love for others in the sense that I do not always know if the result I desire will be what I end up getting. However, I would say this is one of the beauties of this process. I still possess the certainty of knowing I have patience to deal with problems as they come as they certainly will. I know that sometimes things that really are better than I could have imagined do exist as outcomes so I am not as quick to get frustrated or hurt when things do not go as planned. Instead I quietly ponder, “What else is there for me to learn here? What am I not seeing that I may have missed the first time?” And I enjoy working with the broken parts of me now. It has taught me self- acceptance and likewise how to be gentle when recognizing that I and others are struggling. It’s good to have goals but it’s better to be realistic about them and realize that just trying really is half the battle. It makes you feel gratitude towards your journey.
This year’s theme is repair. I refuse to throw my possessions away without trying to salvage or work with what I can first. Repair is my first resort and when I think of what’s next, I’m content with not knowing but instead trusting in the process.
“Life is a gift and it is our responsibility to take care of it. Your breath is divine because it is what gives us life. So anytime you forget about how precious you are, make yourself aware of your breathing and remember the divine is right there within you.” I hope these are the words that come to mind next time you think of throwing away your old bag at the first sign of it needing repair.