No Complaint

Five, ten, fifteen minutes. No grousing. No whining. No complaints. Whatsup? I’ve NEVER not had someone begin to complain about the glue not setting up, or pieces of a broken pot falling apart during the highly metaphoric “Broken Pot” art project I’ve been doing for over twenty-five years. The dining/art room was full of ladies at the Lighthouse quietly, thoughtfully, peacefully gluing pieces of their pots back together. Like I mean whatsup? This never happens!

This therapeutic art activity is designed to address brokenness, loss, frustration, recovery and hope. There’s no right or wrong way to rebuilt one’s pot. However the pot is “done” is how it’s done. But it’s been years since I’ve had so many pots reassembled as recognizable terra cotta garden pots. Typically that requires a fairly high degree of patience and persistence. The Lighthouse, a fifteen-month, faith-based residential treatment program for women recovering from substance abuse, knows these ladies often struggle with impatience, anger, impulse control and delayed gratification. So whatsup with all that quiet, thoughtful, peaceful gluing?

I ventured, “Ladies, how long have you each been here at the Lighthouse?” For most the answer was many months to well over a year. The current group has been very stable, with few women leaving the program, since much earlier in the year. Especially when the activity is designed to generate frustration, I commented how unusual it was for no one to complain or be frustrated with the activity. Then I posed, “Is it possible you’ve all grown more patient since you’ve entered the program?” There was a resounding “Absolutely!” around the room.

Reyna, whose pot appears above, said she would never have attempted putting her pot together six months ago. She would have been angrily impatient and given up. Now, she and my art partner Lee sat side by side visiting which they each glued their pots back together. Often troubled with carpel tunnel syndrome, she marveled that she was able to tenderly, patiently hold the pieces as they dried without any pain.

Kim’s rebuilt “Heart” pot is missing some significant pieces in the side. They represent her beloved older brother who was recently killed in a motorcycle accident and a son who is institutionalized. Her heart is broken and incomplete but the missing pieces are inside. She misses them terribly, but she’s chosen the hard, hard work of facing her heartbreak sober – something she would not have been able to do months ago when she entered the program. 

Rosie, who seems to be unusually adept at three dimension art, glued her pot together before I could turn around. Next I looked she was engrossed reassembling her tablemate’s pot. Kika, chin on folded arms resting on the table, quietly looked on. I almost NEVER allow someone else to work on another person’s pot, but I had a gentle urging not to make a fuss about this particular pot in process. When Rosie finished I asked Kika what she’d title her pot. A title seemed to escape her, but she went on to explain, “I’m broken and part of me is put together, but I get to a point where I give up on myself. Then my friends come along and help put me back together.”

“Sounds like that’s what you did a couple of months ago when you were thinking about leaving the program. The thing that seemed to make the difference between staying and going was the support of your friends at the Lighthouse. Right?”  Right. When she gives up on herself, Kika continues to turn to her friends for support, especially those who are adept at something she is not. Those who are committed to sober living. I’m glad I didn’t interfer.

Each in a unique way these pots spoke into the lives of the women measuring their growing patience, self-control, acceptance and insight. To my delight, we talked about entirely different issues than are usual with this “broken pot” activity. What a wonderful experience for me to enjoy this old war horse of an art activity in a new way. I’ve got no complaint!

If you’ve ever glued a broken pot back together, what did you learn about frustration and patience? In what ways did it speak into your life? If you were to glue a broken pot back together, what pieces would you leave out? What would you title your pot?



2 comments to No Complaint

  • Maria

    The most memorable art project with you was and is the “broken pot,” Lynne. Glistening slivers of metallic red tissue are glued along the edges, with one jagged hole at the bottom, through which pieces of that tissue thread out, like trickles of blood. For me, that red is Jesus’ lifeblood, surrendered and sacrificed for me, broken and yet put back together and mended by His blood stripes. Out of the remaining shards of clay, I glued a pile, like the altars erected in the Old Testament, to commemorate God’s work in my life, His rebuilding. It sits within the pot. Title – Broken but for His Blood
    I clearly remember enjoying putting the pot back together, fitting the pieces into their broken nooks and crannies, finding it soothing to bring order from chaos, then wondering what to do with the little misfit-pieces. Thinking now, God even uses the “leftover pieces” of my brokenness. So grateful!

  • What a wonderful activity! One of my friends broke an antique vase when I was visiting. She was going to throw it out, but I asked for the pieces. It has been sitting in a bag, waiting for inspiration. I thought I might use it for mosaic, but I like the reconstruction idea.
    I got an appropriate (for me!) fortune in my cookie the other day –
    “A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.”

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