“Don’t look where you fell. Look where you slipped.”
~ African Proverb.
Yeah. Dad’s unusual, to say the least, but I see scars as something beautiful. Maybe I have to or I could never see myself as whole, but I think that scars, the marks on our bodies that tell our most personal and transformative stories…I think that they’re beautiful.
These outwardly visible changes to our physical bodies serve a purpose. From the sweet, soft stretch-marks on a mama’s tummy to the more dramatic illustration of life’s traumas painted on the canvases of our bodies…they tell our stories. These stories can be liberating and empowering…or, if we allow them to, they can hold us captive, preventing us from living in the richness of the moment, leaving us stuck as prisoners of our past.
Because scar tissue serves a different purpose than our “healthy” skin tissue, it is made differently. Typical, healthy skin tissue is made by the random weaving together of collagen fibers. Healthy skin is flexible, elastic, and it fosters hair growth and our ability to cool ourselves by sweating. Scar tissue, however, is less random. The collagen fibers in our scars line up in a very straight, organized, and purposeful manner. Scar tissue is stronger than ordinary skin. It does grow hair, and it doesn’t have sweat glands or blood vessels. Our scar tissues literally put us back together. Like calluses on our hands after swinging a hammer for a long time, scars protect us from going through the same traumas all over again.
But we also carry scars that are not visible on the surface. To one extent or another, we all have emotional scars caused by the emotional traumas that we’ve experienced throughout our lives. The loss of a relationship, betrayal, divorce, the passing of a loved one. These traumas leave scars often deeper than those of the flesh. But if we’re mindful and we see them as they are intended to be, our emotional scars can help us heal and help protect us from going through the same traumas all over again.
But here’s where we can intervene in our own wellbeing…our own happiness.
Don’t. Give. Up.
If we break our nose playing basketball, it’s gonna hurt. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t play basketball anymore. Next time we’ll be quicker…more alert…wiser. And our next game might be the best game you ever played! If we fall off our bike, break an arm and get a bunch of road-rash, it doesn’t mean that we’re not supposed to ride a bike anymore. Next time we’ll be safer…more aware…wiser, and our next ride might be our best one ever! We just need to be mindful about what caused us to fall. Don’t look where we fell. Look where we slipped.
And just as we would after being hurt playing a sport, or snowboarding, or riding a bike, we can apply the same strategies to emotional traumas as we do physical ones. If we’re heartbroken over the loss of a pet we can honor our emotions, honor our memories, then we should allow ourselves the privilege of loving again.
If we’ve been betrayed or heartbroken…if someone’s been reckless with our heart, we shouldn’t rob ourselves of the privilege of feeling and giving love. We shouldn’t be afraid to trust or let someone else in. Next time we’ll be stronger, more understanding, wiser…and our next relationship might be our best one yet! It might be our last one. In fact, unlike a bike or a basketball…our next relationship might actually help us continue to heal from your last one.
Our scars are beautiful, guys. Every time I start to cringe and the sight of a scar on my own skin…or wince at the thought of opening myself up to future heartache…I smile softly with the appreciation and acceptance that…I made through. I’m not just stronger and wiser…but somehow, inexplicably…I love even more than before.
Our scars…they make us…us. They make us stronger, wiser, more compassionate, even more empathetic. So let your scars, both inside and out, remind you of what you’ve been through, what we’ve overcome, and what we’re capable of. Look at them as badges or medals…until you can see ’em (and feel ’em) for what they are…our strength, our softness, our courage…
…and a journal of the most transformative experiences in our lives.
I love you guys