Sunday, January 13, 2013

Golden Scars

At a low point in my life, someone very dear to me shared a little quip that, under the wrong circumstances, might be misconstrued as glib or insensitive. Yet the words were true because they carried the import of experience. She told me something to the effect that “Scars are beautiful because they prove that you heal.” Lately, those scars have a twinge to them much the same way people who have broken bones will tell you that certain weather will induce aching in the same areas as the break. I think the aching I feel is because I missed the mark again. It’s not like I missed the lesson from the first blunder…I got closer to getting it right, but I ended up hurting someone else in the process, something that heaps hurt upon hurt.
I find it ironic and infuriating that these circumstances make me want to be surrounded by people and at the same time left alone. Having been a tad under the weather as of late, the scales tipped in solitude’s direction. So I’ve had a lot of time to myself to ruminate in my own self-imposed ‘time-out.’ In my quiet times, thoughts either tend to spin out of control until they implode on themselves or they resolve into a core idea that has been chugging in the back of my brain for a long time. During these times of clarity, I get physically weary, emotionally fragile, and just plain spent. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t take much for a movie, a song, or nothing in particular to bring that familiar lump to my throat and I’m again finding myself wanting to be simultaneously with people to lean on and alone to ‘get it out of my system.’ Yet, the real thing that that pushed through lately is that it’s not that I want to be around people, but that I want to be around people who have a scar or two.
You know you’ve been around someone with scars because they come off as wise beyond their years; they impress you as authentic, and their encouragement doesn’t have a pitch at the end. Their time with you is truly selfless. Their smiles seem to communicate more than their words, yet they don’t let you simply vent without some sort of accountability attached—you can kvetch all you want, but be prepared to do something about it! These are the people I truly treasure.  Admittedly, as much as I wouldn’t complain about having a chiseled physique, a wrinkle-free face with gleaming white, straight teeth, and all the high-dollar toys, the people who typically have those things aren’t the ones who make me feel whole. The kind of person with scars doesn’t tell you what to do, how to do it, or heap guilt upon you for not doing it, but rather is there for you when you make the same mistake over and again, when you feel like you’ve fallen for the last time and don’t have the strength to stand back up, let alone, sit…but their enigmatic smile is there and they have a hand outstretched when you are able to finally muster enough strength to roll over and get your face out of the cold, fetid mud. The real kicker is that someone with one of these scars will probably not call attention to it; they may not admit to having one. And they’re the ones that lift you to their shoulders to publicly cheer you when you get it right.
No, the people who have the innate ability to put me back together are typically those who have been folded, spindled, and mutilated a time or two and rather than having let circumstances beat them into some pink slime, they have been refined into something beautiful yet malleable; and inexplicably, they find a way to become part of you. The best way to explain that kind of selflessness is in the Japanese art of Kintsugi—using gold to fill in the cracks in a piece of pottery and thus restoring the piece. The piece isn’t without blemish of course, but the original break now becomes beautiful. Its scar has, indeed become a beautiful thing, and has in effect made the original piece worth much more. I find that to be the case in my own life and in those who have survived emotional and physical ordeals.  After all, the old proverb, “Smooth seas do not skillful sailors make,” didn’t come about without a few storms or shipwrecks.

These people are all around us and they don’t typically stand out, but their examples do. Their courage isn’t the kind of thing that makes Hollywood movies, but rather the scorn of the self-righteous. They are the recovering alcoholics; they are the young women, caught in flagrante delicto, overcome shame and raise the child with great grace and dignity; they are the awkward gay kids who push past the bullies and get their degrees and decent jobs, even after being kicked out of their fundamentalist parents’ home; and they’re the people like you and me, who just made a wrong decision that had long-term consequences or even just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and performed the great alchemy of turning sour grapes into vintage wine!
Healing is a miracle, and never more so than when you feel like you’re going it alone. But the great gift of healing is a beautiful mark left behind to remind everyone that you have become the miracle and now the agent for healing in someone else. That empathy born from your own pain is a powerful thing, but even more so is the wisdom of knowing what to do with it and when to let it rise up within you. It’s risky, it’s sometimes painful, and it’s often awkward, yet to the one who is broken, you are to them priceless, immeasurably beautiful, and permanently part of their beautiful scar…you are golden and restore someone to wholeness.
I encourage you to reflect back to the golden people in your own life and let them know how you are whole because of their gift to you.