“Take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”Chris Cleave, Little Bee
How much of life have you survived so far?
Are any of the survival moments scars on your skin or on your heart or do you wear them proudly as a tattoo, a story your body doesn’t hesitate to tell?
One night at dinner my son brought home a friend from school. We had amazing food and amazing conversation and as it is when lots of boys get together we got to talking about injuries and scars. The boy stood up and said, “Oh have I got scars to show you.” For the next 20 minutes he proceeded to show us all of his scars, the ones that were allowable to show, and we were all riveted to hear the stories and see the proof. He smiled proudly through it all and he just as proudly knew that life wasn’t finished with him yet, that there would be a lot more scars to talk about as he got older.
Listening to the boy’s stories I couldn’t help but think what a busy, treacherous, boyish, adventurous life he had lived so far and I thought these weren’t scars he was showing us, these were proud tattoos of a life well lived; he was only 13 years old.
“Tattoos are a right of passage. They’re a marker of bravery, of maturity, of cultural acceptance. The tattoo represents not only a willingness to accept pain – to endure it – but a need to actively embrace it. Because life is painful – beautiful but painful… ” Nicola Barker, The Yips
There are lessons we learn in school and there are lessons we learn in life. I’ve come to believe that when those 2 distinct paths cross, that is when we wear our story. When I become aware and present in my life moments I am, in a way, choosing the tattoos I want to brand who I am and who I want to be.
When something doesn’t go the way I want it to it is in the choices I make as to who I then become. When someone hurts me physically or emotionally I can choose to become and remain a victim of the hurt or I can grow from it and own it and wear it like a tattoo of honor or shame and either way I can then create teachable moments to share along my life’s journey. It’s hard though to step back in an emotional moment and realize that there is always a choice to make.
A Scar that Purposefully Became a Tattoo
My daughter faced this very crossroads when the person she considered her best friend did things that proved the girl wasn’t a good friend at all much less a best friend. It sent my daughter into a tail spin and for quite a few years my daughter tried to manipulate her mind to stop fighting a battle within herself to change the friend but rather to accept what was happening. To make a very long story short, the choice she made in the end was to find a way to accept the girl for who she was and to also accept herself for who she was becoming. Not an easy thing to do at all but with lots of patience and practice and self-love she has truly managed to step over to the other side of the pain and wear her lessons learned like a tattoo on her heart. She feels more empowered, more right minded and stronger within her heart than she has ever felt. I see it in her eyes and I hear it in her voice in the way she speaks. She believes what she is working through and how she is working through it and there is a whole bunch of reasons to respect her process. But the question is, how is she doing it? How is she accepting herself and the person that turned out to be nothing like the friend she thought she had? Here are some steps she took to get to where she is right now:
Seek help. The minute my daughter felt the disillusionment of the friendship she talked with me about it. She also casually talked with her other friends. She enlisted the people she felt most comfortable with and asked their opinion, asked their advice, and asked if they had ever been through something like this. She even confronted her friend in order to get a better understanding of where this friendship had gotten so off the rails.
By being vulnerable to the pain she allowed light to penetrate the cracks that were forming in her heart. The light acted like a laser tattooing her heart with the tools she would need for wisdom and compassion.
“When we feel weak, we drop our heads on the shoulders of others. Don’t get mad when someone does that. Be honored. For that person trusted you enough to, even if subtly, ask you for help.” Lori Goodwin
Listen. No matter what stories were being told to her she had enough respect for herself to just listen to what was being said and not said. She took a mental inventory of all the information and let it sit inside her heart for however long it needed to so she could pick and choose the points of information that fit her best.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Talk it out. There were 3 distinct times where my daughter met with the “best friend” and tried to let her know how she was feeling. It took a lot more than 3 times to get the friend to understand and to this day the understanding is still not completely there but forgiveness has taken root on both sides of the friendship and THAT means a positive change has happened. The part that is most important is in the trying to keep communication open and honest.
“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” Shannon L. Alder
Take a step back. Step away from the situation long enough to allow the silence and the physical space to work it’s magic. Clarity has a chance to surface when distance is allowed in. Constantly working on the pain and the situation at hand can cause more pain and less clarity. Step back, breathe, take a time out and let the dust settle a bit.
“In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.” Jeanette Winterson, The World and Other Places: Stories
Know when to let go. As painful as it has been for my daughter to admit, she had to get to a place in her heart where she realized it was more painful to deny who she is right now in her own growth toward adulthood than to compromise any more of who she has already become in order to save the friendship. She had to let go of what she wanted the relationship to be in order for the relationship to become what it was meant to become all along. Sometimes we can only see what we want to see instead of what is really right in front of us. Releasing control over the pain allows us to let go and let each person be who they are right now.
“Distance sometimes lets you know who is worth keeping, and who is worth letting go.” Lana Del Rey
Find gratitude. What was my daughter most grateful for in having this person as her friend in the first place? When she was able to truly list from her heart all the reasons she liked having this person in her life she was able to settle down the pain. People change; life changes us on the inside and the outside. Her friend’s life story isn’t pretty and unless you have walked in her shoes you cannot know the scars she wears and how deep they cut. Those scars have a chance to become tattoos of pride when her friend is ready to stop being a victim to the pain and the past. When my daughter came to understand her own gratitude toward the friendship the friendship had a chance at a new life and a new breath.
“Once you start recognizing the truth of your story, finish the story. It happened but you’re still here, you’re still capable, powerful, you’re not your circumstance. It happened and you made it through. You’re still fully equipped with every single tool you need to fulfill your purpose.” Steve Maraboli
In the end, the two friends are trying to re-invent their relationship and from my humble perspective it looks to be a beautiful tattoo rather than an ugly scar.
Call to Action
What lessons are you learning, experiencing, creating, in your life moments that will become a permanent part of who you are?
Will those lessons be a tattoo or a scar?