Monday, February 2, 2015

Warrior Marks

“I have a lot of scars, man. My mother said that a man is not a man unless he has a scar on his face. And what she meant by a scar was some kind of battle that you had to go through, whether it was psychological or physical. To her, a scar was actually beautiful and not something that marred you.” – Nick Nolte


That is an ugly word. We think of un-pretty marks, disfiguring marks, marks that carve us out of the rest of the world and brand us as different. Someone gets hurt, goes to the ER for stitches, and asks, “Will it leave a scar?” As if that is the worst part of it all.

Sure, no one likes to see that mark. It’s a visual reminder of a very bad day: a car accident, an earthquake, a fight with a spouse, a drunken table dance, a poorly handled gun, etc. Wounds heal, but the scars remind us that they were there in the first place. They are tiny (or sometimes not-so-tiny) visual traumas that occur every time we see them. Some people cling to them, running their fingers across their scars over and over, rhythmically, as if touching the scars connects them to the event physically. Others simply stare at their scars and walk through time.

The physical scars we bear are only a part of our fight. Our other trauma is mental. We suffer, we bleed, we weep, but maybe – if we’re lucky – there isn’t a fleshy scar left behind to physically obsess over. What do we do? The trauma is still there. We’re still scarred. The problem is that no one else can see it. No one can physically see where our pain began. When the mentally scarred look in a mirror, what do we have to focus on?

People seem to understand when those physically injured fall apart. They see the burned face, the broken leg, the loss of hair, or the self-harm lines, but what about those mentally injured? Those barely holding themselves together with mental tape and a fake smile? Those whose response to “How’s everything going?” is always “Fine, thanks.” That’s a stock answer, and if you actually care how someone is doing, you won’t accept it. The mentally injured have ropes and ropes of scar tissue. It can’t be seen, and it needs a little more work to understand it. We may linger over our own mental damage too long, mentally rubbing it in an attempt to break it down and make it go away, but we’re just scar siblings to our physically wounded counterparts.

When it comes to scars, there are two ways to look at them. One, you are a victim of life’s events and disasters and have been marked by them. You can hide them in shame and worry that everyone will see them. Or two, you are a survivor who has participated in your own life. Display whatever warrior marks you have, and do so proudly. If anyone wants to turn away, let them turn. Scars mean you had something to fight for, you fought, and you didn’t give up.

I am a survivor. I am proud to have survived every fight in my life. These are my marks: my warrior marks. And I am proud.

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