Broken

Welcome to many a dinner-table conversation.

Mir: “You’ve got some food on your face.”

Me: “Oh, here?”

“No.”

“Here?”

“No.”

“Here?”

“Dude. It’s in the drool spot.”

“Got it.”

The drool spot is a two-inch wide section from my left lip to chin. Behind it, a decade ago, I broke my jaw. Or, my jaw was broken. How could someone ever break their own jaw? It doesn’t matter. If I didn’t get stumbling black-out drunk on Jagermeister, my jaw would still be intact. So, fuck it. I broke my jaw: a two-inch fracture of the mandible bone. (That little doozy of a store is HERE)

Surgery repaired the jaw. New skin grew over the small rod that holds it together. Occasionally, that rod will hurt if I get hit going for a rebound in basketball or something. It sort of shakes and then the bone throbs. I can hear my mother asking me to wear a mouth guard when that happens. But, for the most part, it is fully healed. There is only one minor glitch. I can’t feel that part of my face.

The drool spot collects and stores saliva, over-applied chapstick, excessive condiments, anything, really. If it’s on my face and I can’t feel it, that’s where it has to be. I’ve grown so accustomed to not feeling that part of my face, that it has just become the unfeeling part of who I am. It’s like how you don’t realize you are right-handed until you try to write with your left and it takes you ten minutes to write a sentence. I simply don’t feel that part of my face, and I don’t question why.

Occasionally though, like when my wife has to point out there’s been a piece of turkey dangling from my chin since lunch, I’m reminded that, much like my jaw, I am broken.

Surprisingly, knowing I am broken has been a great gift and asset to my well-being.

For so long, I was above receiving help, beyond the advice, too smart for directions. I never wanted to admit that I was broken up, insecure, emotional. I was paranoid and delusional, but I was doing just fine. It’s all bullshit really. That whole just fine bit. Fine is too reductive. I’m never just fine. I could be OK, of course, but even then I am just fine with a splash of jealousy, or just fine with hint of resentment. Most often, I am just fine and just a tad bit angry that you asked me how I was doing.

Broken people make a broken world. Our country is not, nor ever was, a beacon on a hill. It is a broken land filled with broken people. Take comfort in that fact: we are like everyone else walking the earth—no more or less special, capable, or dream-ridden.

So broken myself, I can’t help but think all the world’s problems could be solved if everyone just admitted that they came from a broken home. Instead, we save the term for the extreme case of drug-addicted parents and sexual abuse. We’re all broken. How could our homes be any different?

It’s our strive to be perfect that keeps us from progressing toward perfection.

It’s part of that insidious urge to appear like we’ve got it all figured out when we really don’t know the first thing.


And that’s why I’m glad for a jaw that suffered permanent nerve damage. It’s not just mustard going unnoticed on my lip, it’s a reminder that I am broken. The great myth that plagues us all is that humpty dumpty was whole before he fell off the wall. It’s not a matter of all the kings soldiers putting him together again, because he was broken in the first place.


I love to—with empathy—hear about that permanent scar, that regrettable tattoo, that broken bone, that constant reminder of your brokenness. After all, if we don’t know we’re broken, how can we heal?

25 Responses to “Broken

  • Love this so much- I remember the shame I felt when my ex. Told me, after our divorce- “Now our kids come from a broken home. It killed me.
    I too came from an”broken” home- there were many things about me that were broken and I felt so ashamed.

    Thank you for this.
    💜

  • We’re all broken … it’s true and all you have do to confirm that is to have honest conversations with people. Great piece. 🙂

  • How can we heal? I am inspired and learn so much from your posts. You have been a source of comfort and wisdom for me as I have embraced my brokenness so that I can begin to heal and repair my life. Thanks for knocking this one way out of the park.

  • Great post! From now on though I’m making you wear a mouthguard when we play.

  • Mat Docherty
    5 months ago

    Thanks!

    Reminds me of a Chinese proverb “one illness, long life. No illness, short life”…

    We need to be reminded how ‘breakable’ we are!

    Mat

  • My ability to trust in regards to a life partner is broken Mark. I really don’t mind being single though or maybe that’s just what I tell myself…

  • I have been broken, healed and broken again. I think that is called life. I am in a broken stage right now. I would consider it the worst break so far and I pray I start healing soon.

  • I really love that we belong to a tribe where we are brothers and sisters in our brokenness. There’s no shame or guilt in it. Only honest siple reminders that this is life. Thank you!!

  • I have been broken for so long. And for almost just as long I have tried to not be. My years in church reinforced that I was broken and it was a bad thing and I better not be broken anymore. It was soul destroying, Mark. I thought going to church would allow me to to throw my brokenness out in front of me and the people around me would love me anyway. Instead I, and many others, got thrown to the dogs. Like the song goes, “I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen your knives”. Ah, but now I am being the victim. And I am. A little. Mostly now I embrace my vulnerability. I embrace the vulnerability of others. “We are all just walking each other home.”

    • Birdie, I’m so sorry you had the sort of church experience. That’s awful. Truly awful. If there is one place we should be OK with being broken, it’s church. I guess it proves that saying (that I’m going to butcher here) “Being in a church doesn’t make you Christian anymore than being in a garage makes you a mechanic.” or something.

  • Dude I can’t keep up with your posts – how you pumping these babies out?? lol. Full props to you.
    As for broken – this is something I struggle with. Are we really broken, or are we, as they tell us, “where we need to be?” In the 7th step prayer, we ask God take us “good” and “bad” – are we bad in any way? Is this free will painted all over us? What does good, or unbroken look like? I know I am extrapolating through your fantastic work here, but like a great piece, it gets me thinking. Perhaps my ego bristles as being “broken” in any way, but I understand the sentiment. Are we human? I get that. Do we have shortcoming? Absolutely. Am I broken? I don’t know – I have a past, and I have fucked some shit up. And I will continue to fuck shit up again. But I guess I am playing with semantics here. Splitting spiritual hairs.

    In the end, like your jaw there, we have our reminders. I have my moments that remind me that I am faaaarrrrr from perfect. And that’s okay. I just have to look forward and do my best.

    Fantastic work.

    • Thank you so much Paul. I’m glad it got you thinking and appreciate that you let me know your thoughts. Always good to have a dialogue with you, brother.

      And while I may one day rescind, I still believe we’re all broken. And not admitting it, may be the the biggest break of all. It’s like not admitting we’re human to me. In a Christian sense, it means being unrepentant. I had a dream recently I could tell you about on the phone when you’re back on the continent.

      I’ve heard some people reply with different things. Like “we’re all handicapped in one way or another” and “we’re all impoverished in one way or another” and I think those hold true in the same way. Thanks for taking the time while on your vacation to read and comment!

  • It is very uplifting to see what your post has drawn out Mark. Communication and sharing helps us broken ducks mend our wings
    Michelle 🙂

  • We are all wounded and broken in some way and the more often we allow ourselves to be vulnerable the more we can truly connect with other human beings in a deep and meaningful way. Thank you for the lovely reminder.

  • Take My Life
    (a song by Micah Stampley)

    Holiness
    Holiness
    Is what I long for
    Holiness
    Is what I need
    Holiness
    Holiness
    Is what you want
    For me

    Holiness
    Holiness
    Is what I long for
    Holiness
    Is what I need
    (Ohoh)
    Holiness
    Holiness
    Is what you want
    For me

    Righteousness
    Righteousness
    Is what I long for
    Righteousness
    Is what I need
    (That’s what I need)
    Righteousness
    That’s what you want
    That’s what you want
    That’s what you want
    For me

    So take my
    Take my heart
    And mold it
    Take my mind
    Transform it
    (Take)
    Take my will
    Conform it
    (To yours)
    To yours
    To yours

    Brokenness
    Brokeness
    Is what I long for
    Brokeness
    Is what I need
    (Gotta be broken)
    Brokeness
    Brokenness
    That’s what you want
    For me

    Take my heart
    And mold it
    (Take, my mind)
    Take my…

    ___________________________________________________________
    The sacrifice God wants is a broken and contrite heart:

    My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17).

    So, in the end, brokenness is a good thing. Sometimes a shot at doctors office can hurt but it can also save your life. Sometimes painful events lead us to healing and a deeper relationship with God which saves your eternal life.
    Brokenness is what we all need.

  • stepsherpa
    5 months ago

    Fun read thanks..

    By denying my God I have worshipped people. Thrown myself away into the fragmented abyss of humanity where no puzzle is complete. I have failed myself, blamed others for my demise, and it means nothing.

    Alone. Broken, in desperate need of repair. Is this even possible? Can minds break? Hearts? I think of the neighbors loyal dog (King the handsome Husky) spending his last days pacing the fence waiting for his master. It came on quick. One day his everything then the next? Bum rushed by Cancer. He will no longer be coming home shining his light of life on the mighty and loyal King..

    Pacing back and forth until his once courageous heart is empty. The dog is here still, yes. His body stands guard under his full white coat. But his mind is gone, it left carrying his heart, leaking love with each pass, each deeper cut in his once well manicured yard . He’s gone to find his master wherever he may be. His master needs him, he understands. There is no other way.. Where could he be? At the beach walking without him? The dog park? Is he in the car? In his chair asleep watching TV? Making food noises in the kitchen? Even the Vet’s? No. He’s vanished, he’s completely vanished…

    I’m sorry I barked at the cat, again..again. That cat is trouble! I saw you yell at it and just thought…bark! bark right now!. And the time I pooped on the carpet ..I had to, I really had to go! I didn’t want to do it, I was young. Please come back. Please come back to me. I will be so good to you, I will be the best friend ever. Just come home and let me know you’re safe. Everything I am is with you but I don’t know where you are. I’m lost and afraid, I’m with you and don’t know where I am, where we are. How can I save you like this!

    The harsh reality hit me square. I’m not a dog. I may choose to think like a dog, even believe I understand the dogs life but no, I am not a dog. I should stop acting as if.

    Sometimes I’m simply visiting places I don’t belong. I find failure there. I feel broken there. Seemingly unaware that I may not belong there. Yet I still go there searching for myself. I have to.

    • Stay near to those places, Sherpa. I think it’s important. Those are the places, the reminders that we are human. One thing that separates us from the life of a dog is our knowledge of our own death. That we will one day pass from this earth. Dog’s know pain, but aren’t aware of their own mortality, at least that I’m aware.

      I’m sorry for the loss of your neighbor’s dog. Sounds like a good companion. Thank you for your brokenness.

  • Great post! You reminded me of the little dog in the room on fire, and he’s all “I’m fine”.

    So, no tattoos, physical impairments (that I know of) from the drinking days… definitely a reminder of something to be grateful for today.

    LOTS of emotional scars – #TYG I was a blackout drunk and only remember half of it.

  • There is beauty in the brokenness as well. Like the beauty you shared in this piece. This made me think of a theme I am exploring in writing right now: the Gestalt, we are more than just the sum of our (broken) parts…(a bit of improvisation on my part). As for me, my scars are mostly inside, my husband still wears his scars on his arms. ❤

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