I am always encouraging the writers I work with to embrace their passions–find what you love, what brings you alive, and write about it with zest.

For the past few years I have been following my own advice, returning to my childhood love of horses and riding. It has brought such light into my life! 

Me and my friend Simba.

And yet with every love comes risk. 

Last week as I drove to the stable, I was thinking about the risk I took in opening my heart to the stranger who became my husband, and all the good things that came from that ultimately unsuccessful marriage—my wonderful sons and their partners, and now a delightful first grandchild. 

I was never much of a risk-taker, and the failure of my marriage made me even more risk-adverse. But in following my heart back to riding, I found myself willing to take risks again. 

And once again, I got hurt. 

A sheet of snow falling off the roof of the arena startled my trotting horse, who shied to the side while I kept going straight—and down. It happened in an instant, and there I was lying on the ground, the breath knocked out of me, and—though I wouldn’t know it for a few days—with five ribs fractured. 

A humbling experience. A reminder that a physical shock I might have absorbed easily at 10 years old will take me weeks to recover from decades later. 

Will I be getting back in the saddle? You bet I will!

Given how very brief, precious and precarious life is, especially in these uncertain times, I know it’s more important than ever not to pull back in fear from the people, places and pleasures that make me happy. 

That’s not to say I will throw myself at unnecessary risks—I plan to buy an equestrian safety vest, and err on the side of caution—but I will continue to follow my heart-guidance, which pulls me towards joy the way unfurling flowers are pulled up towards the sun. And riding horses, most definitely, brings me joy.

As I’ve been nursing my ribs and mulling it over, I’ve realized that once again, life is offering me lessons of value for purposeful memoirists. To whit:

  • Seek out positive experiences, in life and in memory; and transmute the challenges into life lessons learned that may, if shared, be of benefit to others. 
  • Some level of risk is unavoidable, in everything that truly matters—in life and in writing. Sometimes the diamonds in your own experience, and in your writing, will only be found through the painful work of crushing and processing the coal. 
  • Healing happens on its own schedule. Be patient, gentle and compassionate with yourself as you move through the pain. Try to keep your heart open and remember, as Rumi says, to let the music of your soul animate each breath with the divine force of Love. 
Photo by J. Browdy

I’ve been thinking about the Japanese practice of Kintsugi, also known as Kintsukoroi, in which artisans carefully repair broken pottery by soldering the pieces together with liquid gold. The practice is meant to show how, with time and care, a broken vessel can actually become stronger and more beautiful than it was before it shattered. 

As I send healing energy to my poor fractured ribs, I am musing on how the practice of purposeful memoir can be a kind of Kintsugi technique that helps us process the challenges of our lives. The words we write become the molten gold, beautifully welding our memories together. 

This is an example of an insight I could only have come to through seeking the joy of horseback riding.

Risky, yes. But so worthwhile!

Me and Theo.
  • Have you had any Kintsugi experiences in writing about difficult moments in your past?
  • What are the joys you run towards, even when you know they may expose you to risks?

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  1. Rosa

    Oh dear Jennifer… what a lovely meditation-in-writing… it reminds me of a book I have just finished reading — “Heartbreak”, by Florence Williams — which also about taking an extremely painful experience, and turning it into an opportunity for one’s own learning and growth, as well as, inspiration and benefit for others… much love and healing wishes to you, as your body mends and knits your ribs back together again!

    • J. Browdy

      Thank you so much, dear Rosa! Yes, I am trying to apply my own principles of purposeful memoir to myself this time….