A friend posted a brainstorming question on Facebook: “What do you think of when you hear the word “delicate”? Answers came in along these lines:
- Handle with care
- Do not touch
- Lace and doilies
- Be gentle or you might break it
The general theme was one of avoidance, fragility, and protection. This outcome gave me pause and got me thinking. While nothing posted is untrue, I believe it leaves out an important nuance of the word “delicate”. Maybe this nuance however isn’t so much about the word “delicate” itself, but rather how we choose to interact with those items we have labeled as “delicate”.
Let me tell you a story.
When Kenny and I first got engaged, we registered for china. While I have since learned to challenge social norms rather than follow them, at the time registering for china was just what you did. So we received four beautiful sets of china and proceeded to keep them stored securely in their boxes. We were waiting for just the moment that was special enough to warrant using our luxurious china.
It is not hard to imagine that the right time never came around because seriously – who uses china anymore! So this china sat in a box for 3.5 years when we lived in Tennessee. Then we moved to Eugene and it stayed in a box for another 2 years. It continued to stay in boxes for almost 3 years in New York. Finally, when we moved back to Oregon, I asked Kenny….”What the heck are we doing? We should either use it or get rid of it cause otherwise what is the point!” It took me almost 9 years to realize that by “protecting” this delicate thing, no one ever got to appreciate its beauty. The special moments worth celebrating were happening around us every day.
So what about the delicate that resides within? What are we doing with that delicate? Protecting it, hiding it, saving it for something special?
delicateadjective del·i·cate \ˈde-li-kət\
1. Marked by great precision or sensitivity
2. Requiring skill or tact, involving matters of a deeply personal nature
An introspective look highlights our own inner delicate. Our inner delicate is the pieces of our soul that are sensitive, special, deeply personal. It is not uncommon for the inner delicate to be the parts of yourself you wish to eliminate or hide. The parts we avoid or pretend don’t exist because we are afraid of the damage it may cause. We strive to be strong and tough, to be resilient. We believe that if we show our inner delicate it means we are giving into our fragility.
Or does it?
Like those china plates that added beauty to our meals, “delicate” adds a beauty and a fineness of detail to our world. Think cherry blossoms in the spring. They are fragile and delicate, but their beauty is extraordinary. It is also fleeting and must be loved in the right then and there lest we lose our chance. This is the great value of delicate. If it is not appreciated in the moment, it might very well go away and before you know it, it will be too late.
I believe we often associate delicate with “handle with care” or “put behind a rope” or “look but don’t touch” A better way to approach delicate is to “embrace and cherish”. When we stop to embrace and cherish the delicate parts within we find a whole new dimension that brings unparalleled wonder. And by sharing that with others, we can spread beauty and wonder to the world around us.
For me, my delicate is called Depression. Often taking on a fierce personality of its own, it makes my life difficult. It tells me that I am no good. It makes me feel worthless and encourages me to abandon self-care and self-love. Frankly, Depression is a Jerk!
For a long time, Depression was something I wished to shed, to be rid of forever. It was also something that I buried and didn’t tell anyone about. I was embarrassed of it as if it was that horrible family member you never want to introduce to your friends. It made me fragile and weak and I put up barriers to protect myself because I believed I was breakable.
It took me a long time to learn that the fine precision of Depression lines in what it has taught me about overcoming when times get rough. No matter how many times I want to stay in bed and cry, I pull up my big girl pants and push through…taking care of kids, going to work, living life. As much as I have wanted to give up completely at times, I keep on keeping on. Without knowing it, Depression has been training me my whole life to embody relentless forward progress. Practice makes perfect and I have a LOT of practice.
Dealing with depression is not unlike running an ultra or tackling any other hard effort. There are peaks and valleys, ups and downs. Yet the peaks are brighter and more valuable because of the lows. My depression has proven to me time and again that the lows never last forever and even when I think I am about to break, I always make it through intact. The times I have fallen apart, I am always rebuilt stronger than before.
And while the high points in my life might be short lived at times, they are more beautiful for it. As with a cherry blossom filling the world with fleeting sweet beauty, each moment of joy in my life is savored. After experiencing a world without cherry blossoms, those moments of bloom are mesmerizing. I am learning that delicate can teach me and others how to be mesmerized by life.
Take a moment to look at your life. What do you feel makes you vulnerable, fragile, breakable? Do you wish you could eliminate that part of yourself? This is your delicate. Try pausing for a moment and asking what you can learn from your own personal delicate. You might be surprised by what embracing that delicate fragile part can teach.