Your Scars are Beautiful

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sometimes it is a terrifying long lesson to learn to look and not look away from your own scars.  As an almost-teenager I suppressed a certain trauma so that I completely dissociated myself from it.  For five years I completely forgot all about its existence until at 16 it began coming up to my consciousness again.  Its rising had the look and feel of shards of glass, after being submerged for so long in the safety of the undergrowth.  I've never had such a repression experience again (... well, not that I know about yet, ha), and when I think back to how those memories felt after they'd come back up, there is nothing else to really compare them too.  While they felt like shards of glass, they also felt like they were covered over with moss and other damp things and had taken on some of the feel of the undergrowth they had been living in for half a decade.  Thirty years away from that, that mossiness feels like some kind of protective awesomeness.  At 16, though, I felt that if I looked at the shards, I would be cut open upon them and fall out all over the ground.  For many years just the knowledge that the shards were there was enough in terms of dealing and healing.  It needed to scab and then scar over first before I could get enough distance from it to own it (funny paradox, delightfully deep).

But you can learn to look your terrors in the face.  And you must.  That which over the ensuing decades you cannot and will not learn to have come sit and dine with you at your fireside can slither out the door when you're not looking and run amok.  

I came across this portion of a poem by Robert Bly, in a delightful blog post by Falstaff Was My Tutor on deformed beauty.

If a man, cautious,
hides his limp,
Somebody has to limp it! Things
do it; the surroundings limp.
House walls get scars,
the car breaks down; matter, in drudgery, takes it up.

~ Robert Bly

Takes half your life to learn to hide your limp, the other half to learn to display it.

Sometimes it is easier to acknowledge that certain things have caused trauma, and harder to acknowledge that they leave scars.  You do not want this horrid thing to be a part of your forever.  But it is, and this is where you must deal with it.  Dealing brings a wise and sweet surprise out the other side into the knowledge that scars can become beautiful.  Sure, people you don't know might snigger at you in the street with your limp and your deforms, but it is only those who first love you who have the proper sight and right to be able to name the beauty in your scars.

I like to offset the deep internal scars with the ones visible on my body:  the horizontal one along my chest, the vertical three down my right hand.  When you are eight years old and in love with your cousins' half-wild farm cats, it is a courage born of delight that compels you to try to pick them up :) 


  1. I hear you and weep. My scars, different than yours but still potent, are still mossy, and they even today cut through all my layers and pierce the surface, especially through music...some of which reminds me so vivid that I even today forget I'm 40 and not 13. It may only last a moment, but I have to shake myself out of it. 

    It's so interesting to think how much of the trauma of the past is still embedded in me, has made me who am. I can see the places that have been wounded and wonder who I would be today if those things hadn't happened to me. I don't know if I would want to be that person, but sometimes I envy the Erin that is out there in a parallel universe somewhere that didn't grow in to a woman underneath the weight I did.

    Some days I think I need to just acknowledge and speak out those things, to let them be what they are, instead of fighting so hard to mold myself around them. But it terrifies me, because for so long I have been led to believe my traumas are invalid. Then again, society is coming to terms with it, bringing it into the light, into validity, and I am trying, too. 

  2. "Falstaff was my Tutor" is a fascinating blog isn't it?

    so many of us carry scars we are unable to speak of
    and as you so succintly put, they do have a habit of slinking out the door and running amok all when we think we're doing such a good job of appearing 'normal'
    smooth skinned, scarless

    one day perhaps we will understand that nobody is normal, smooth skinned, scarless
    life leaves its mark on all of us in one way or another

    in the meantime, hopefully our deep inner scars  give us empathy
    and help us treat each other gently

  3. "Takes half your life to learn to hide your limp, the other half to learn to display it." Yes.

  4. Yes.  And it's annoying because I know the energy it takes to hide them is much better utilised for something else.  The energy I get from sharing those and someone else somehow feeling better for that goes out the other direction.  But it's hard ... :)

  5. Nicely put, Kel.  

    Falstaff is a great find.  I'm very glad to have come across it.

    Smooth skinned and scarless is so boring anyway ... look at the people on reality shows.  They're the end result of our love affair with that version of normality, and the Botox is blooming them out into freakazoids :)  We don't want that.  The human-sized version with its scars and bumps is FAR more gorgeous :)

  6. Ahhh, music.  It's good for that, isn't it. Healing :)

    I think the speaking of those things has to be on your own terms, because it's awfully scary.  Sometimes it feels as though to be invalidated one more time would just make everything come tumbling down.  So it's necessary to be protective of that.  I think this stuff takes longer than we would like ... maybe it's good that it's a slow burn, you know?

    Yeah, funny how society is bringing its stuff up.  We're linked in that way, aren't we.  It's good, noble, hard work.


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