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Not much turns out the same after being torn, bent, or broken. No matter how carefully something’s been straightened out or stuck back together, there are usually some telltale signs of the repair. It’s simply a matter of degree. Sometimes the mark is obvious while other times obscured. Either way, there’s always evidence after a trauma.

There’s not much to be done about that. We can choose to embrace the scars or not. Wabi sabi, or “flawed beauty” in Japanese philosophy, teaches us that that there is loveliness to be found in every aspect of imperfection in nature. Many find greater beauty when there’s a flaw – the scar tells a story and the attraction becomes more real.

Beyond the philosophy’s notions of beauty being found in natural inconsistencies, it reminds us that there are unavoidable cycles in life. All things – including you, me, and all of our relationships – are impermanent, incomplete, and imperfect. And we can’t escape the fundamental truth that everything eventually grows, ages, and decays.

What we often get wrong is thinking that this process is one of decline only. The truth is that while one thing is coming apart, there is always another thing being directly strengthened by its breakdown. Taking an example from nature, the vital last third of a tree’s lifecycle is actually in its decomposition when it plays a crucial role in nourishing, strengthening and supporting all the life around it.

How does this relate to our daily lives? As we age and as our families move from generation to generation, the presence of grace accompanies decline. While our bodies weaken, our connections and spirit strengthen. The parent-child bond is a prime illustration. From day-to-day and over the course of decades, repair and renewal shapes the way we raise our kids.

Right now I have the privilege of experiencing multiple phases of the parent-child relationship each day with a grade schooler, preteen, and teenager in my home. Relational dynamics, power differentials, physical needs, and emotional connection with each one of my children is in constant flux. Inevitably, someone misreads the expectations or norms and as a result, conflict and breakage occurs.

What follows can be an all-out fight, a quiet pout, a calm conversation, or a combination thereof. But however the repair occurs, it ultimately results in an important shift within the relationship. Rips, bends and breaks are fixed and what’s left behind is a direct outcome of both wisdom and strength developed in their wake.

Steady states are transient, both in the physical world and within relationships. So rather than thinking of the changes in terms of deterioration or loss, maybe we can think of them as opportunities to experience a new kind of beauty. Each phase of existence offers us something wonderfully fresh – if  we stay open-minded enough to see it.

About the Author

Kerry Galarza, MS OTR/L is the Clinical Director and a pediatric occupational therapist at Elmhurst Counseling. She provides specialized assessment and intervention with children of all ages and their families. Kerry engages clients with naturally occurring, meaningful home-based methods to empower autonomy and maximize functioning.