We all carry scars. Physical scars, emotional scars. Scars from crazy adventures, scars from stupid decisions, deep scars from emotional experiences that changed who we are or were.
Sometimes the scars are small and non-descript. No-one else would know the backstory, even if they noticed the tiny scar. Sometimes they’re evident to everyone – particularly when trauma brings back that pain. The perhaps-out-of-proportion emotional reaction. The visceral re-experiencing of a past traumas overcome.
This week has been difficult. So many weeks are difficult. Some people’s scars, particularly emotional scars, were exposed by a traumatic event. Some of those scars are recent – not yet healed. Some are long-past but still bring up difficult memories.
Do we value the scars of our colleagues and friends? Not in the sense of sensationally wishing to know all the details, but in the sense of respectfully appreciating that the scars mean something – they mean, more often than not, adversity overcome and lessons learned.
There is a Billy Joel song called “Pressure“. The lyrics have often struck me
You turned the tap dance into your crusade Now here you are with your faith And your Peter Pan advice You have no scars on your face And you cannot handle Pressure
Some of my own scars run deep. Particularly emotional scars. There are things I have seen and experienced that have changed me. They have made me less open, less giving, less willing to try, to learn, to grow. It’s hard to move past those experiences and find ways to be open again.
Yet this tough week comes at a time when I have found – against all expectations – people who are able to challenge and encourage me to rediscover my strength and my humanity.
I won’t go back and I won’t put myself in those situations again, yet I’m finding, day to day, ways to put those scars and those experiences into perspective. I am learning to cope with the vicarious trauma of the work that I do, with the real trauma of some of those I work with and care about, in ways that are healthier and more constructive – with the constant support of amazing, strong people, some of whom are working through the same or similar challenges, who find the strength and humility to share experiences with me and help me find my own strength.
I am not sad about the scars that I carry. They are a map of journeys taken and the road less travelled and lessons learned. Respecting those scars and the stories behind them – my own and others’ – is a foundation for new journeys, physical or literal, with people who value past experiences and can see and share new paths.
The scars we carry do not define us; they remind us and help us to find new, better, sometimes wiser, ways of taking on the challenge of a life less ordinary.