Many years ago, I took the plunge into taking a writing course at the local university. Night school stuff. I was hesitant and frightened silly to get into a real writer’s course, so I took the one class that I thought was the equivalent of wearing water wings. It was a creative non-fiction class. Sounded good.
The class had about twelve students. The desks were arranged in a circle (that was never a good sign for this introvert who always hid in the back row). The way it worked was that the teacher would pick a topic, and then we would take 20 minutes to write something about that topic, and then we would share it. We would then comment on that person’s piece. We weren’t allowed to make negative comments, and we had a limit of how long we could share (looking back, it kind of reminded me of an AA meeting – no cross talking!). It was eye-opening in that I thought my ego and clever writing skills would win the day. However, I quickly learned that my “five dollar words” (as my teacher admonished me for) and my skirting my truth were not what I was there for. We were there for digging deep. Well, cue the tears and sniffles. We all learned stark lessons on humility, gratitude and compassion. At least I did. But it was what the teacher had explained to us on the last day that really stuck with me.
We were shown an example of what the teacher described as “writing from a wound” – it was a piece in the local newspaper, a op-ed. Once you knew what to look for, you could see that the writer was coming from a place of unresolved hurt, resentment and anger. The words themselves did not convey it, but the tone and words not written did. If I think of a wound, I think of something open, gaping, fresh, very painful. Raw. Writing from a wound is where we express ourselves in an immediate, painful way – there has been no chance of looking at the big picture, of healing, of grieving. We were then shown an example of “writing from a scar”. This is where the author came at things with the sense of having reflected, where the once raw emotions had given way to sage perspective, where precise pain had yielded to calm compassion and outlook. A scar is what protects a wound. It has had time to slowly cover itself, to reinforce the place of hurt, to almost camouflage our past injuries with stronger skin.
I thought of this recently, and I can see that when I was actively drinking, I was living from a wound. Everything in my life felt so raw and slashed and bruised and distressed. I couldn’t get away from the fact that I felt under attack at all times – mostly from my own self. My perspective was warped, and I relived the pains of resentments over and over again – self-flagellation with a cat-o-nine tails filled with poison – alcohol. How could I possibly move on or just “get over it” when these self-inflicted lacerations kept me in my proper place. How could I not drink?
When I finally sobered up, and having worked the steps and established my relationship with God, I had some distance from those wounds. I can see today that I am now living from my scars. The harms have had time to heal. Some faster than others. Some scars are nearly invisible. Others are still new, but they are healing. Every one of us have these markings on our souls, tracked on our hearts. I know I do. I can come from a place now of empathy, of having been hurt and having hurt others. My scars show me where I have come. My scars have left indelible lines on me, like the old hospital bands and handcuffs had done before. My scars bring me closer to where I need to be, where my place here on Earth is, my purpose. My scars trace the lineage of my life up until now.
Look at my heart. Look at my arms. Look at my soul.
I am truly a marked man…and blessed for it.