Wabi-sabi (n.) the discovery of beauty in imperfection; the acceptance of the cycle of life and death.
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese phrase that’s become popular amongst the trending wordsmiths in search of meaning. It also represents the goal of a grief cycle. The same goal as the process of the journey through grit, grace and gratitude.
“It’s personal. If it isn’t anything else, it ought to begin by being personal” ~ Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail
A person knows they are in a place of peace when they can accept the wabi-sabi of life; the beautiful imperfections require grit, grace and gratitude. Life is a full acceptance that has a beginning, a middle and an ending. All great epic tales of love and life find their beauty.
I joined the IPPA in it’s charter year. To me, finding positive psychology was a glimmer of what I’m supposed to be doing. I had been in psychology for well over a decade, but was not happy. The lived experience was a life that didn’t feel complete. I was in a marriage that felt empty and sad while raising children in a place where I didn’t choose, but also didn’t leave. Life was a beautiful mess.
In 2009, I decided to work on my dissertation in subjective well-being and belonging. The irony was not lost on me. I submitted a proposal to present a paper. My acceptance letter was sent from Chris Peterson himself. I was thrilled and a bit star struck.
Before the world congress, life threw me a curve ball, so I never met Chris or got to go. It was the beginning of a pattern of endings. The year my walls fell down; I didn’t repair the broken parts. I stayed in the darkness without seeing the beauty of potential in something else. The discovery of the beauty in sadness came much later. Grief took me on a four year journey.
The art of Wabi-Sabi
A journey of a thousand miles begins and ends with the decision to take action in one’s own life. The wabi-sabi for me came with full ownership of my past choices along with the understanding that every chapter in our lives is written by those who live that life. Once we recognize the beautiful imperfections, we can life a whole life again.
Sometimes, walls need to be torn down so that we can see the incandescent beauty in the rest of the world.
The artist sees the relationship between the dark and the light. The author sees the hope in the sadness along with the tenderness in the end. A truly great novel, movie, or well-lived life includes a balance of light and dark. The cycle of each stage of our lives gives us the choice of acceptance, or regret.
None of us is perfect. No life decision is perfect. There is only imperfection and that grit-building awareness.
That is how we find grace.
About the Author: Karen Henry is a former university professor and now author of Indelible Women: The OM [Original Me]. Karen is a personal development writer and a dream weaving narrative development coach. Karen’s been a positive psychology practitioner since 2007.