#iamsubject project – The Mosaic of the Broken Soul

The Mosaic of the Broken Soul

by Branka Cubrilo

Life is about choices. Is depression a choice or a chemical imbalance in the brain? Does that imbalance occur when you are aware of various unpaid bills: medical bills, bills for the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe? Thank Heavens; I haven’t had a telephone bill because I cut myself off from the ringing of the phone. I took big scissors and cut the cord as I used to cut the dreams I did not wish to dream; those that would come as unwelcome.

Without telephone bills, I had the advantage of not paying an extra bill, but was in danger of cutting the world out of my living room and taking a risk of going mad; interpreting my own thoughts without any reflection, without a mirror.

Is it safer to go along with the darkness or to fight it? Simply to surrender? I wanted to borrow somebody else’s language – the solutions of others, as if my mind was in the grip of the lord Asmodeus. Like him, I wanted to spy on other people’s ideas, in the desperate hope that there would be a solution better than the one I was capable of finding in my own mind.

So, where was God, where was that God?


If I allow God to tell me where he was hidden in the dark hours, I can remember the light that shone upon me every time my daughter crossed the threshold of our home. It was as if God himself had come in with her, and I was astonished that all the dark clouds vanished as if they never existed. So, this is the question: where did they exist and where did they go, and who was once again pulling the invisible strings of my stability?

My mind, God, the presence of my daughter, or something else?


We would put up a little theatre and include all the characters that we needed. I would remember some of the people we met in various locations in the world and use their words and accents and expressions and gestures and all. She would ask a simple question and I would recite short or long poems I had learned off by heart in the years of my childhood. I remembered (maybe for cases like that) some of the funniest poems and they would come easily to me to my rescue. Her laughter was my remedy, just her laughter…

I would sing songs to the ingredients while we were making soup or another dish or ask for forgiveness the dead animals we were going to eat. I would speak in different languages, known and gibberish, while I was trying to keep her mind occupied with laughter and happiness. She would play the piano and I would dance, funny dances that I invented right there, right for her, because I longed to hear her laughter louder than the sounds of her piano. And she would laugh, she would laugh and I would heal.


Many years ago I carefully selected her name, Althea, which means a healer, or the one who brings wholeness, as if I knew we would be in need of healing of various wounds and pearls which we inherited from shimmering but silent stars.

There were times when I felt as if we were not two separate beings. It looked to me as if the same energy, the same soul, somehow entered two bodies and communicated with itself in perfect harmony. But I knew the time would come when I would be asked by life to let her go, to split the soul once again and let her choose her own path. For the time being, we were the bud and the fragrance, an instrument and the music, the breath in and the breath out. We were two kids sharing secrets and laughter. We were mother and daughter and I wished we could teach the world what love is.

And love itself is the biggest healer still known to the world, how privileged are those who know this simple truth and weave its threads into the fabric of everyday living.


It is not a choice.

Firstly, life sends its messengers – some events that are too difficult to comprehend and handle, just one after another in a very short time to show you how all can be crashed in one breath. Sudden or wild, or uncontrollable breath, that comes as a whim out of nowhere. I might ask you now: do we lay down our weapons in sweet surrender?

No lights, no guides, all left, even those between living and dreaming. Sounds ran into themselves unwilling to share with me the melodies of life, that’s why silence was at the same time the refuge and enemy that tortured me with deafness. It was the feeling of a motherless child. When I think of it, my fear returns, looking me straight in the eyes and luring me back (I have never liberated myself from its grip completely).


And the enemy, the world out there, was not a part of me. It was clinical, making me question all the time the very meaning of life.

Was it a clear sign that I have to look closely at myself and find somehow that disturbing events can be valuable moments for my transformation? Our human life is made of light and darkness, thus isn’t it only natural that after happiness, it is time to let sadness take its place in our garden? And you cannot hide in that garden, for it reflects all of your feelings and moods. I was supposed to swing and sway with flowers played by unpredictable winds. If only I had known…

If only I had known that there was something else that existed apart from my thoughts I would have probably thought about these rhythms of moods. But when you are in the grip of unwillingness to participate neither the world nor the words are supportive and pleasant.

I wanted to yell, to scream, to screech as a beast but it was only a wish that inhabited the unknown part of myself: the alien one. Neither was the other part of me, the one which was reluctant to scream, any friendlier. So many parts unwilling to communicate.

Who am I?

“Who am I?” I wanted to ask anybody who would glance at my face, which I did not know any more. The face, which was a face of my Mother’s child lost in adulthood.


How much is too much? And what is the measure with which the incomprehensible merchant measures the pain for each of us? Does he consider the size or the build? Is the colour of the eyes, the skin or the nationality the deciding measure? Oh, how many times I wanted to tell him: I am quitting, resigning, please leave me alone … but my strength was already taken and none was left, not even so little as to hold my pen. My very darkness became my guide; it took unthinkable avenues to lead me, wanting to amaze me as a gifted lover does.

I found myself in the place in-between and all whom I met there were in frantic search for broken pieces…

…But the music she played on her piano was coming through her from an invisible healer who wanted my soul to hear it. And she would play, she would play and I would heal.

Diane DeBella

As a writer, teacher, and speaker Diane has spent over twenty years examining women’s issues. She is the author of the collective memoir *I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves*, and editor of the anthology *I Am Subject Stories: Women Awakening*. As a long-time faculty member at the University of Colorado, she received the CU Women Who Make a Difference Award and the CU-LEAD Alliance Faculty Appreciation Award. Through her organization I Am Subject, Diane helps us understand how we—as women—are impacted by the society in which we live. By claiming ourselves as subjects of our own lives, we become empowered and also provide strong role models for other women and girls. In healing ourselves we help others—a beautiful way for women to create nurturing, supportive communities.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Zvezdana

    Branka thank you for sharing this touching and honest account of your journey.Many of us find darkness inspires our writing in ways that light doesn’t and is crucial to honest soul searching writing. A beautiful piece. Stay well my dear.

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