Thursday, September 2, 2010

Living With Scars

The last few weeks have been rough ones for me. I can't go into the details, but I lost something I put a lot of hope in. I didn't even know how much hope I'd put in it until it ended. Don't worry, I know I'll be okay, but it's got me thinking a lot about the grieving process, about how we as humans deal with the hard things we face.

We all have moments in our life that hurt. And as a good friend said, "Pain is pain." I don't think we should go around comparing who's suffered more—who wants to win that contest?

Times like these remind me that those moments, while they do fade, never really go away. It's like that scar I have on my chin, from when I fell out of a wagon as a kid. It doesn't hurt like it did when it was oozing blood, when the stitches itched and my mom kept telling me not to touch them. Most of the time, I don't even think about it.

But then sometimes I rub my chin or, uh, pluck a stray hair from there, and there's the scar. I remember for a moment turning that corner too tight, toppling to the right, and my face skidding across the sidewalk corner. The blood is warm as it dribbles down my neck. The barely-attached skin flaps back and forth in the wind. My friends' faces fill with horror.

It's as if I relive it all over again, just by seeing that scar.

Grief seems to be that same way for me. Most of the time I'm fine—I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the hard things I've gone through. Mostly because I don't think my life has been that hard. I constantly feel blessed. There are so many good things in my life.

But when something sad or awful does happen, it's like touching those scars. The memories come back, almost as vivid as experiencing it all over again.

I was teased as a kid. And I'm not talking the little jokes here and there. From kindergarten to around my sophomore year in high school, there was someone "out to get me." Someone who made sure I knew what an awful person I was. And sometimes they were once friends. I want to think I've grown out of it, but when I struggle with my self-esteem or loneliness their voices always come back:

"I hate you, Natalie."

"You're ugly."

"You're weird."

"You're not cool enough to hang out with us."

"You don't belong."

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. A horrible lie, in my opinion. I still live with the mental scars from words wielded harshly. Every time I fail or "look stupid," it's like touching that scar, remembering the pain.

It's like a chain reaction, because that, of course, makes me think of my grandmother. She always made me feel important and special and worthwhile. I lost her 18 years ago, and yet the memories smacked me across the face yesterday. I was driving home, and bam, I ached for her like I haven't ached for her in a while. I wanted her to be here, to tell me I was the most brilliant writer in the world. Because when she said things, they were true or she would make them true. She was magic like that. A fireball.

So then I end up living through all my grief because of one sad thing (I won't go through all of them for you, this sad post is long enough). It plays in my mind, vivid and real (though it's probably more like over exaggerated and melodramatic). Logically, I can see what's happening and why, and yet at the same time the feelings are still there. The scars.

I know as I heal up from this last emotional wound, the pain will fade and I'll be fine. I might be changed in ways I may not even know, but fine. I also know that as much as I heal, there will always be this scar, a reminder of what I've been through.

But maybe that's not such a bad thing, to remember those hard times once in a while. Our scars are as much a part of who we are as the rest, right? They shape us, but it's up to us to decide what shape that'll be. I'm determined to come out of this one stronger, even if I'm not quite sure how to do that yet.


  1. what is it with driving and sad memories? They always sneak up on me when i'm in the car.
    I most likely spend more time crying in the car than anywhere else

  2. Our scars do shape us. As much as I hate to admit, they help to mold our characters (us, not our imagined, writing characters). But you're right - its up to us to decide HOW they will mold us. It took me 10 years to figure this out about an experience I went through - you can either remain a victim to your life or a victor. It's up to you.

    My only advice - nothing helps to soothe the soul as much as a good cry, a delectable piece of chocolate and a loved ones arms to hold you.

  3. What a beautiful post, Natalie. Thank you, and I'm thinking of you--though I don't know exactly what it is you're going through, I am sorry for your loss.

  4. Wow, Natalie. This post is beautiful and wise. I'm sorry you're going through a hard time. I hope writing this out helped you work some of it out. *hugs*

  5. I'm really sorry you're going through such a rough time. My offer to go get dessert or dinner or something still stands if you want to get out. You are so strong and such an inspiration. Thinking of you.

  6. Beautiful and profound. I'm sorry for whatever it is you're going through. Hope you feel better soon.

  7. I've always read your posts, but it wasn't until right *now* I felt like you were speaking to ME. I so get what you're saying right now. "Our scars remind us that the past is real..."

  8. Our scars make us human, too.

    Characters without them are incomplete, but show us the scars--or the events that created them--and you show us the characters' vulnerability.

    Your pain is bad, but sharing it with us helps both you and us, and connects us in a way that happiness can't.

  9. Thanks, guys, I really appreciate the comments! I hate being down on my blog, but something it just has to come out. Writing things out can be healing. I think we all know that:)

  10. Aw, Natalie... I hope our Star Trek boys helped cheer you up last night. For what it's worth, I went to bad last night in a fantastic mood, feeling relaxed and happy in a way that I haven't felt in a long time. Thanks for making that happen for me. :)

  11. Aw, Natalie....most writers feel this way from time to time, but few are brave enough to admit it.



  12. I was going to quote Papa Roach, but Candyland beat me to it. :) Heartache and sorrow and disappointment are miserable, yes, but it makes those moments of joy and happiness that much sweeter, knowing you have walked through fire to get there. Thanks for this post, and also, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with a stray chin hair every now and then!

  13. I hope tomorrow is a better day for you.

  14. "Because when she said things, they were true or she would make them true. She was magic like that. A fireball."

    That was magical.

    You are amazing, woman, and so much stronger than me. Tell those voices in your head to shove it, because they are WRONG, and you ARE beautiful. You are one of the most beautiful, whole people I've ever met.

    We will be okay. We will be.

  15. I definitely don't want to win the "I've suffered more" contest. *Hugs* And I hope things go better . . . but like you said, even though the scars never go away, they make us who we are. And I think you're a pretty cool person (based on your awesome blog). :)

  16. I can relate more than I care to admit, Natalie. But no matter what's weighing down on you now, each day it will get a little better. And you are so right: you will come out stronger in the end. I'm going through a rough emotional time myself and what gets me through is remembering that, while things will never be the same, they will return to some semblance of normal. Whatever THAT is.

    Here's hoping you take it one day at a time and remember "you can do this" as clearly as you remember all those scars. <3

  17. Thanks for your very honest post, Natalie. I'm sorry you're having a rough time, and I hope your scars fade to nothing. (I have some of those, the ones that are almost gone.) And I want to punch all those meanies in the face.

  18. As a writer, I always tell myself that the bad things are going to make an awesome book someday. Even if you don't write the specifics, everything we experience is something we can draw on for our characters.

    I hope you feel better soon.

  19. Sorry it's been a hard few weeks. Just want to thank you for sharing your good and not-so-good-times with us. You have lots of supporters out here, even among lurkers like me.

  20. You've summed it up well, that the scars are part of who we are. I get that, and yes, everyone has their own sad story, but that doesn't take anything away from your story. Sure, you feel blessed, but you can't help but wonder and think what if sometimes, if things hadn't turned out a certain way, how would that have shaped you, from where you are now? I have my moment similar to your wagon moment, I had a sister a year and a half older who just died out of nowhere when I was 11, and that set off a chain of events that as bad as they were opened up opportunities for me, college, marriage, all affected by that day she died. So, I guess her death is my scar. I guess by the end we'll all have a life full of scars, but the older we get, I hope the easier it becomes to look at them without sadness. I hope you feel better! and you're a great writer!

  21. It's our life scars that make us strong and wise. We learn a lot about ourselves through struggle and disappointment. Believe me, I've been there many times. That doesn't help you get through what's going on, but at least you know that you're not alone. Plus, you're ahead of the game because you already know that it's our scars that give us character. Plus, there's that saying, it's always darkest before it's pitch black...wait a minute, that's night's always darkest before...what is it? See it's hard to be optimistic when you're in a bad place, but your dawn is coming.
    Really it is. :)

  22. Oh my gosh, that's all so...sad! It's all obviously affected you greatly throughout your life, but I see you using it to strengthen your resolve. Here's hoping you find your "way" in the grieving process, and rely on it whole-heartedly!

    P.S. From what I can tell, you've got over 800 friends on here who wouldn't dream of saying those things to you! ;)

  23. I had a "scar" moment recently when I visited a place I hadn't been to in a long time... it was weird how many memories came flooding back and the mixed emotions I felt...

    Losing things hurts, and even after we've 'healed' sometime this hurt will slap us in the face when we least expect it.

    Even though it hurt to visit this place, my 'pain' healed quicker, because I had grieved it before. Sometimes the best way is straight through it, good luck.

  24. I'm sorry you're going through a hard time. It's awful the way that when we're grieving all the older griefs get revived too and pile on the suffering. I hope you're nearing the end of this one.


  25. It's the last few lines that I find so is our scars and our reactions to them that help to define us! Sorry for the hard tims you are going through, but know that without those - you would not really know joy! {{hugs}}

  26. That was beautiful. I am sorry that you are having pain in your life. I know pain also. Losing Grandparents, Mom, a baby, my father-in-law, even is so very hard. This post, however seems to have been at least a bit cathartic. It was for me to read it, and I thank you, and wish you happiness.

  27. Hey Natalie. I like to think that the same things that made middle school hell are the things that make me special. A lot of times the societal purpose of teasing is to build a group, to reshape anyone who does not quite fit the mold. Way to break the mold!

    Things got a lot better for me in high school, too, when kids got out of their rigid groupthink.

    I hope things work out in your current situation. In my experience, even the things I hated going through have had hidden blessings. We know it will be worth it. Somehow, right? -Kelly

  28. I'm sorry for the pain you're going through now. But you're a very strong person--and brave--for being able to look at how the pain will shape you.

  29. This post is achingly beautiful and rings so true. Thanks.