I have a big scar on the inside of my arm, from when I fell off a fence when I was six. The doctors told me it would go away with time, but it’s been almost 20 years, I think it’s here to stay. There’s one on my knee, that I earned scuba diving in Sri Lanka, but it’s fading and I expect it will be gone soon. Callouses on my hands, results of pushing myself at the gym in an effort to forgive and love my body. And at any given moment, I have at least one on my arm from my cat. This is the topography of my skin, marks that tell me where I’ve been and what I’ve experienced. I often point to them and tell my stories, explaining why I won’t climb fences anymore or why I always opt for a full-length wet suit. I’m happy to share them. My beautiful scars.
My heart is a lot more scarred than my body. More emotional than physical. The loss of a loved one, a breakup, school or career events, bad housing situations, the death of a pet – all of those things leave marks, too. But I’m way more hesitant to show those off. I don’t want to tell you the stories of those scars, I don’t want to show any cracks in my shell. As a number of personality tests and basic self-awareness have told me, I am the type of person who views those scars as weaknesses instead of important parts of my story. I don’t find those scars quite as beautiful.
Tom Wilson wrote the book on beautiful scars (literally x). I read his book a year ago and have been thinking about it ever since. It’s a beautiful book, you guys. Honest and vulnerable and everything I needed it to be. He and I have not lived similar lives but so much of his story resonates with me, inspires me, pushes me to look up to where the light gets in. It’s caused me to reckon with my wounds and the way they have shaped me, the way my story has been formed by the things I’ve experienced.
“I’m scared and scarred but I’ve survived.”
Life is messy and sometimes we’re held together with nothing but tape and glue. I’m not special for being scarred, but as much as I hate this cliche I know I’m better for it. The last five or maybe even ten years of my life have been a marathon and while I’ve always hated running my endurance and capacity is growing daily. I’m working really hard every day to heal, and I’m getting help and I’m setting boundaries and creating practices in my personal life to preserve my energy for getting out of bed and going to work and maintaining relationships as best I can. (I’m doing a bad job of the relationship part but I’m blessed with good people who have taken that pressure off me).
The thing about scars is that they’re not open wounds. Injuries hurt for a while but eventually they heal over and you can look back and know that these experiences have marked you. Scar tissue grows differently than regular skin; it has a different texture, a different colour, a different pattern. It changes you, sometimes forever. Some scars leave you, others don’t. We don’t get to choose.
It has taken me a long time to fall in love with my scars. I held on to the doctor’s promise that they would fade for years. I didn’t want a reminder of how scary it was to see the inside of my arm or to get stitches, or how hard it is to keep a wound clean and covered and wrapped when you’re six years old and your cousins are visiting and all you want to do is play all the time. But I’ve learned to love them, to call them beautiful.
I also don’t want reminders of my heartbreak or what it feels like to miss my friend’s funeral for work or the crushing sense of failure because I had to move back into my parents’ basement for reasons out of my control – twice. But this is who I am, this is my life. This is the topography of my heart, and every scar is a reminder that I’ve survived this far.
And maybe one day I’ll think of these scars as something beautiful, too.
PS – Here are some resources I’m really loving as encouragement to ease up on myself in the healing process. If you’re interested:
- Jayne Hardy (x) and The Blurt Foundation (x) who have a lot of resources on self-care, how to break through the barriers we set for ourselves and incorporate giving yourself a break into your daily life
- Jess Bird/blessthemessy (x) who encourages community and crying and gratitude and intention and boundaries in the form of illustrations
- Mari Andrew (x) and Morgan Harper Nichols (x) who have such different styles but are beautiful inspiring writers who make me want to be better at my craft but in the meantime they have a way of sharing the words I’m feeling
- Dr. Nicole LePera/the.holistic.psychologist (x) who has encouraged me to take my healing into my own hands, setting daily intentions for breaking habits & recreating myself.