My husband took our nearly two year old daughter to the park a couple of a weeks ago. She’s fearless, and in her I-haven’t-experienced-gravity-in-any-real-way-yet innocence, she bravely mounted the giant swirly slide and went down the equivalent of a two story house’s worth of twists and turns on her own. She had a blast, but couldn’t have anticipated the velocity with which her little body would move, and somewhere along the way, she got a little abrasion inside her elbow.
She was no worse for the wear, but she has shown everyone she’s come in contact with since then her little battle scar, proudly pointing at it and saying “dada!” (I’ve spent the last few weeks saying, “yes, you got that at the park with dada.”) As the scar healed it has morphed from what looked like a little rug burn, to a cigarette burn, to almost nothing now. But she’s still showing anyone who will look that faded mark on her arm.
As adults we all carry scars, some from acts of bravery gone awry, some inflicted by other people, but as adults we are so prone to hide them, cover them up. This little scar has become a part of who my daughter is – it affects her life in no real way now that the initial pain is over, but she’s quick to name it and it’s origin, and to allow me to put it in context for her. “Yes, you got that on the slide at the park with daddy.” Because it was readily visible, we all watched it change and heal, and I kept an eye on it, in case it would ever need any further medical attention.
Isn’t that a better way to heal?
I woke in the middle of the night a few days ago thinking back on some hurtful words inflicted on me. I desperately wanted to go back to sleep, and quickly started to add context to the pain so I could diminish it. “I didn’t deserve those words. That person was wrong to say them. I don’t need to be reduced to their accusation. I can let this go.” Months removed from the situation I was able to talk myself through this fairly quickly, but at the time, those words simmered on my skin like a scar I couldn’t tell anyone about. Now, life would move at a standstill if we all went around naming all our scars, but what if there were safe places – marriages, families, communities, where we could point to them and say “this happened like this” or “I have this scar because of this reason, and it’s now a part of me.” If we were freer to share our pain in safe places, maybe someone else could watch our wounds heal, could check to make sure we didn’t need further medical attention, could help us put context to our wounds.
And maybe we’d get to the point where we could shrug them off as easily as Risa does her little mark now, because in community, we found healing.