Broken Pieces

by Dana Wineland O’Rouke, contributing writer

Anticipation caused me to hold my breath every time my grandfather slid the big wooden box that he handcrafted from under the living room sofa.  To the little girl me, it was a treasure chest of neatly arranged puzzles, brainteasers, small toys, and games. There in the middle, between the Wooly Willy and the Dominoes, was my favorite, a kaleidoscope.

I’d pick up the cardboard tube and the sound of the multicolored clear plastic pieces moving inside called to me. I always studied those tiny colorful bits before turning the tube around to align my eye with the hole. I was completely mesmerized by how those broken fragments would make for beautiful ever-changing designs once they were held to the light.  I’d walk to the window and carefully position the cold metal end of the tube against my eye with one hand then turn the front end slowly with my other hand, and watch the kaleidoscope show, again and again.

But no matter how many times I enjoyed the spectacular reflective patterns, I would instinctively turn the tube around and stare just as long at the broken bits behind the thin clear plastic. I would shake the kaleidoscope and look for the tiniest, the biggest, the brightest, and the color I could find most of. I was amazed that what I was looking at, those broken bits, were responsible for all that beauty once held to the light.

Little did I know the kaleidoscope was teaching me an important lesson.

Life brings moments that cause your heart and spirit to break; the death of a loved one, the end of a once-loving relationship, or when you or a dear one are facing a life-changing illness.

There are also times when your heart and spirit are not bruised, damaged, or broken, but are crushed by anguish. The longer I live and the more individuals I’ve come to know and care about, the more I see what the pain of grief can do.

You feel shattered, trapped, and in pieces, much like the end of a kaleidoscope. You realize you will never be whole again.  

So, what can we do with our shattered pieces? Just like that kaleidoscope, we need to hold our pieces, however small, to the light.  Broken can still be beautiful, feel joy, have peace, and be an inspiration to loved ones.

Grief (the most misunderstood of all emotions) is a natural response and part of the process we must go through to get used to a new life situation. Everyone’s road to healing and hope is different.

A lot of focus these days is put on kindness. It’s time we made ourselves a priority and treated ourselves with kindness by incorporating mental health tools to help us thrive, not just survive.

  • Begin each day with gratitude and positive thoughts.
  • Devote at least 20 minutes outside for fresh air and sunshine.
  • Practice meditation.
  • Eat healthy meals.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Take a walk or get some form of exercise.
  • Do something that makes you content.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Spend time and make deeper connections with people who value you.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise alertness about the impact mental health can have on a person’s overall well-being.  Green is the color for mental health awareness because it symbolizes hope and resilience.

While most are aware of Breast Cancer Awareness Month established in 1985 and American Heart Month established in 1963, the fact that the lesser-known Mental Health Month was established before them both in 1949 proves how much work there is to be done to increase awareness and reduce the stigma related to prioritizing self-care of our mind.

Seek the help of a mental health professional if you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health condition that is stealing your happiness.

Do not suffer in silence. Do not sit in the dark, especially when the pain of feeling broken is unbearable.

We are all a little broken. Find the light. I am forever that kaleidoscope.


About the author: Freelance writer Dana Wineland O’Rourke retired after wearing the many hats required for her position as a school secretary for 30 years. A lifelong resident of Monongahela, Dana has been married to Tim for 45 years. Their two sons and daughters-in-law made the family an even dozen with six grandchildren. She enjoys spending time with family, traveling, gab & grubs with friends, biking, and fitness classes at the YMCA.