Book Review: Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

When I was at university my friend Suzannah and I came up with the concept of mining every situation for the gold.  Like every minor sometimes we spent days sifting through mud and dirt to only find one or two specks.  But we decided that focusing on these specks no matter how small was the secret to really embracing life.  After reading Lesser’s book however I realise that every pan full of dirt and the simple act of mining itself can be the very gold we so eagerly seek.

Lesser’s book is a compassionate, poetic, funny and moving tale about using the difficult times in our life to completely burn down and rebuild ourselves what she describes as ‘the Phoenix process’.   Although she doesn’t refer to infertility specifically she does spend a lot of the book talking about loss, grief and coming to terms with a life that you hadn’t planned on, which are all strong dimensions of the infertility journey.   There is a loss, grief and mourning process almost every month.

I am firm believer in everything happening for a reason I subscribe to the theory that there are no accidents and that everything even the smallest of chance meetings or discoveries fit into a much larger picture which makes perfect sense.  So I have often asked myself where infertility fits into this picture, part of it was the usual ‘why me’ questioning but there were also bigger questions about God and faith. Infertility has challenged my faith to almost breaking point and surprisingly Lesser’s book restored it.  I was raging at God and the injustice of his decisions that granted children into households were they were abused and neglected and yet not gifting them into homes where they are so desperately wanted.  Now I realise that God is not some benevolent genie or some harsh punishing judge.  God (please note when I say god I mean, Allah, Buddha, Jesus or any divine energy you call him or her) is simply someone/something who give us exactly what we need, when we need it.  That may be infertility, loss and sickness or it may fortune, fame and success.  No matter how it looks from the outside we all go through all of those things – they don’t say life is a roller coaster for nothing.

Both sides of the coin of life good and bad has something to teach us about our world, our lives, our selves, each other and god –  it’s all gold. Although I deeply wish at times that I wasn’t going through this I have come to accept that this period is exactly what I need in my life.  I have been circling the edge of a dark forest for a long time, craning my neck to see a path or catch a glimpse of the other side, but circling none the less.  In these last couple of weeks, I have decided to accept the quest through the darkness and although I am still at the very beginning I am more open to the unknown.  One of my favourite quotes from the book is from the personal story of a women who suffers an incredible life change.  ‘ The first lesson is as old as the hills. ‘This, too shall pass”. Everything passes and changes and turn into something you would never have imagined, if you will only let it.’ Its time for me to let it.

Using this sadness and loss as the threads to weave something meaningful and beautiful to my life has now become my mission, I feel that despite the emptiness in my belly I can still birth something precious into my life.  A lesson, a spiritual adventure, a divine awakening my very own nugget of gold.  Lesser has helped me transform my feeling of being broken down into one of being broken open.

“I trust that the darkness teaches us and leads us toward the light. I know that we are protected most by our fearlessness as we make our way through the shadowy forest and beautiful gardens” Broken Open – How Difficult Times Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser



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