The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. – Ernest Hemingway

It seems like the world is composed of those people who break bones and those who do not.  I’m the former, and my husband is the latter.  At this point Grace seems to fall in my camp.  I’ve been thinking a lot in the last week about what it means to be broken, and then to heal.  I do realize that not everything in life is a metaphor – sometimes a cold is just a cold, a friend told me once – but this one is hard to avoid.

As scars speak of wounds we have suffered and healed from, so too do our bones bear the marks of our journey, our falls and our recoveries.  The big difference, of course, is that bones, when healed, are invisible to the naked eye.  That means that my body is full of healed breaks, bones that have reset themselves, grown back together, not as perfect as before, not as straight, but (as of now) solid

I am easily broken.  And yet I have always, so far, healed.  It’s hard not to ponder why it is that some of us are more breakable than others.  Did Grace somehow inherit my predisposition towards breaking?  It wouldn’t be the only difficult legacy of mine she’s received.  Am I weak?  I often feel that way, there’s no question: fragile is one of the words I would use first to describe myself.  But as I think about this more it occurs to me that this is perhaps just a physical manifestation of my emotional and spiritual orientation towards the world.  Maybe my bones simply echo the way my heart is easily broken, by all the gorgeousness and pain it witnesses every day.  Maybe I don’t know any other way to be, deep down in my core, in the very marrow of my self, than vulnerable to breaking.

I understand that there is great pain in breaking, but I also have to believe there is much to learn.  At the very least it makes me appreciate being whole.  And of course it fills me with awe, the idea that bones, the scaffolding on which our entire bodies hang, can knit themselves back together.  The analogy this offers for life itself is compelling to me, and inspiring. I hope that if Grace did inherit my propensity for breaking she also can see the beauty in this way of life.

Have you broken a lot of bones?  Do you think that makes a person weak?




11 thoughts on “Broken”

  1. I love this metaphor, especially as someone who has broken my fair share of bones (an arm on the first day of summer vacation when I was 5; a clavicle and spinal fracture in a near-death car accident; some toes). I am not a particularly careless or daring person; my husband is much more of a risk-taker than I am in the physical arena, and he’s never broken a thing. When I was pregnant and interviewing pediatricians a number of them asked if I was having a girl or a boy, and when I responded “girl” they invariably told me I wouldn’t have to worry about broken bones. I thought this was a funny assumption to make. The body’s ability to heal itself IS astonishing, and I very much believe that it has a language all its own that we should pay attention to.

  2. Wow I have never had a pediatrician say that about boys vs girls and not only do I disagree I think I’d tell them so! Couldn’t be more different from my experience either personally or with my son and daughter.

  3. I’ve broken bones, and what astonished me is the healing. I see the strength in that, not the fagility in the breaking.

    What makes me feel weak are my soft tissue injuries that do not heal so well and continue to haunt my movement.

  4. Maybe there’s another way to view brokenness: you are able to yield, to surrender. I haven’t had many broken bones, just a pinky finger and pinky toe and a cracked hip which doesn’t seem to count as a full break, but I do live with chronic pain issues, and I often wonder if this is because I am so stubborn, unwilling to relent or let go. There is courage in giving up, breaking, don’t you think? Submitting to injury allows for the possibility of healing.

  5. I think you say it well in your “About” page, Lindsey, when you say ” I am strong [example of delivering my children]… and I am weak [example of getting sick]” As to broken bones, I think Elizabeth and Kate write well about the body’s miraculous healing powers. And you’re not weak by any stretch of the imagination, for the strength inside and outside you especially that makes you able to meet these questions and feelings honestly in your life and writing, and also because you’re not alone.

  6. You are a vessel of strength, and you’ve broken bones.

    I am strong, too, yet I’ve never once broken one. (Interestingly, Abby has already broken one and Henry has not).

    I don’t think bone breaks equate to weakness. I think, like scabbed knees, tears, dirty hands and scars, they are signs of a life well-lived.


  7. I have broken just one bone in my 42 years of life. A left proximal humerus fracture – a long break down the upper part of my arm bone. The orthopedic surgeon who put me back together told me that it will be stronger even than my other arm, not because of the screws and plate that are in place but because the tissue that scars is actually more durable than an unscarred bone.

    And so I suppose it is with most things that are broken….stronger than ever after it heals.

  8. You’ve started such a great conversation. I don’t think you are weak AT ALL. As several people have written in the comments above, those broken places grow even stronger. I always admire your courage for asking the big questions.

    A good friend once told me that our hearts break so that they can expand. I am hoping that is true of my life now as well. I haven’t broken any bones, but I am still reeling from the effects of the concussion I got in January. I hope this makes me stronger, because otherwise I’m just going to be really pissed off. 🙂

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