Scars

It has been a long ass day. I’m sitting at the kitchen table fighting the urge to throw my computer across the room. Expectation is the mother of all frustration says Antonio Bandares. Technology can be such a nemesis. I agree with Dave Barry, “user” is the word used by the computer professional when they mean “idiot.” I’m struggling (utterly insufficient) to connect with the servers at Notre Dame so I can adjust lesson plans and fiddle with my files. This is why I’ve been living at my office lately, I’m beginning to resemble the form of my chair (wide and squarish), because it has become my most intimate relationship. It rocks, and swivels, so there’s that.

My computer could be more encouraging. You know, instead of “invalid password”, why not something like, “Ooooh, you’re so close!”?  Lisa Porter

The scars on the hard wood floors in the kitchen capture my attention (or shall we say divert), I can picture the kids roller blading from kitchen to dinning room, with hockey sticks they found under the Christmas tree, a bright red puck passing from player to player. It was late December, too cold to play outside, so we laid the chairs on their side to act as goals, while Larry and I slipped off to the family room for a much needed cup of coffee. The noise and confusion all part of the fun until someone got smacked in the face with a hockey stick. I have to say the amount of blood was surprising.

This is family. Our most basic domestic unit, where one learns empathy and compassion, or rejection and apathy, hope and faith, or hate and mistrust. Greg Boyle says, children find themselves adrift not because the informational signposts are illegible, but because there is no one around to guide and accompany them. I’ve often considered what it would be like to grow up in an impoverished environment, not impoverished as in poor, but impoverished as in lacking the opportunity to experience love. How would that affect my ability to maneuver in this world. I believe the impact would be significant and possibly inescapable in the long run.

I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes about middle-aged people who compulsively reminisce about the past, struggle with technology, and grouse about change, but that hockey game happened at least two decades ago, and now I’m more inclined to preserve the scarred floors, then sand away a potent memory.

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” Cormac McCarthy

Life is a crucible. Is it not? A place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new. I think memories are strange because we don’t really capture a memory as much as we interpret a past event and then ascribe some sort of meaning to the experience. It is these interpretations or attached meanings that define who and what we are because we go about life collecting evidence to confirm and validate these interpretations. It a vicious cycle. This is why I write. I’m trying to ascribe meaning to something that is perhaps meaningless. This could be a midlife crisis, let’s move on. 

In a workshop on curriculum development from Facing History and Ourselves I read an important story. It peels the onion a bit, opening up wounds we’ve all endured, and urges us to question our most basic need to belong. I want so desperately to understand why people do the things they do? Especially intentional cruelty. Don’t you? But that requires coming face to face with my own failure to love, honestly I’d rather sand, and cover with a dark shellac.

“I also have a memory of a different kind. There was another girl in our class who was perhaps even more rejected than I. She also tried harder than I did for acceptance, providing the group with ample material for jokes. One day during lunch I was sitting outside watching a basketball game. One of the popular girls in the class came up to me to show me something she said I wouldn’t want to miss. We walked to a corner of the playground where a group of three or four sat. One of them read aloud from a small book, which I was told was the girl’s diary. I sat down and, laughing till my sides hurt, heard my voice finally blend with the others. Looking back, I wonder how I could have participated in mocking this girl when I knew perfectly well what it felt like to be mocked myself. I would like to say that if I were in that situation today I would react differently, but I can’t honestly be sure. Often being accepted by others is more satisfying than being accepted by oneself, even though the satisfaction does not last. Too often our actions are determined by the moment.” Eve Shalen

I know what it feels like to be an outcast, to be rejected, for no apparent reason other than I was someone the “in” crowd decided to spurn. Eve Shalen questions, it’s as if the outcasts were invented by the group out of a need for them? She goes on to say differences between us do not cause hatred, hatred causes differences between us. It was a disorienting experience to be rejected until a trusted companion wisely counseled, “do you really want any of those people to be your friends?” And I realized rejection can be a gift if you’re open to new relationships, ones that might be more authentic, and life giving. I wonder if I would have allowed myself to be pulled back in, given the opportunity, and if I was honest I believe I would have run right back to the hornets nest. #truth

“Forget that old adage ‘forgive and forget.’ It’s an impossible standard. The human heart never forgets its pain. We can and often do choose to forgive and heal and move on. But the scars remain. Like words pounded out on an old typewriter leave impressions that can never truly be erased, the heart remembers.” L.R. Knost

Humans leave scars on each other, on their communities, on the world. Maybe it is our longing to be remembered? Or possibly the result of not allowing our hearts to become attached? A blatant failure to love. Regardless, they are powerful reminders, our actions have consequences, intended or not. Maybe that is where we begin? With the scars, with the stories, with the wisdom that comes directly from the heart? A heart that can see what is invisible to the eye, exposing our deepest fears, that of isolation and loneliness.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”  Kahlil Gibran

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll talk wound care.

Anecdotes:

  • The kitchen is the heart of every home, for the most part. It evokes memories of your family history. Debi Mazar
  • I think we spend so much of our lives trying to pretend that we know what’s going to happen next. In fact we don’t. To recognize that we don’t know even what will happen this afternoon and yet having the courage to move forward – that’s one meaning of faith. Sharon Salzberg
  • A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.” Leonard Cohen

5 Comments

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  1. So good to see your words appear in the comments Lisa! I too believe the only way to move forward is to honor our past, all the gritty details, snarls, and foibles. The recipe of us. It gives us flavor for sure. Thanks for the comment Lisa, hope all is well with you.

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  2. Hello! Once again, a really enjoyable read: eliciting smiles, chuckles and then complex, pensive thoughts. When I read the first paragraph, I started to laugh.User = idiotChair= Cheryl = wide, square but rocks and swivels. Hmm, not buying, except maybe the rocks part.As far as computer frustration is concerned, too bad you don’t live near Silicon Valley and know someone with amazing tech skills that could easily solve your computer troubles. �� Next up is a cruise down memory lane, and a smile crosses my face. Gail and I chuckle about the scaring of the wood, and she brings up the memory of our son Tyler, carving the letters Tyl into our coffee table. He stopped at that point figuring we would never be able to figure out who did it. Of course, this table is now a priceless relic.The scalp and face do seem to bleed disproportionately compared to the size of the injury! Next up is the more serious part of the blog. You address the issue of development with the support of devoted, caring guidance. I believe having the support of two committed, caring parents enables a child to flourish emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The breakdown of the family unit can be overcome, but it makes life more difficult. Imagine if Stalin, Hitler and Pol-Pot had received appropriate nurturing, and developed consciences. Then you drop the Cormack McCarthy quote! My youngest sister likes to remind me of when I goaded her into jumping from the window to the bed (I think a squawking chicken flap was what got her to leap!) She changed her mind mid-jump. She brandishes the scar as a way to remind me of my role in the tragic event. Legs bleed too! And here I will drift off on a tangent, which is the way I roll. I remember Gail and I taking Tyler to see the movie, “The Road” base on McCarthy’s book. When it was over, Tyler stood up and declared it was the worst movie he had ever seen. Of course, his fave’s are Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy. During the movie I was wondering if Gail and I were in a similar situation as the movie characters, with a lone child, would she go on a walkabout by herself to end it, and could I carry on in a bleak, hostile world? Would you? Something to think about. So why are people intentionally cruel? I have no idea. When I reflect on my life, there are things that I would like to pretend never happened, or as you say “sand and then cover with a dark shellac.” #notproud Of course, if I had not learned from my prior mistakes, maybe things would have been worse. Maybe a bad experience prevented a worse experience. As McCarthy said, “You never know what worse luck your bad luck saved you from.” And then the JJ Heller song. Beautiful, emotive, heartfelt and without a patina of insincerity or sappiness. It strikes a chord. I had never heard it before. I like it better than any song I can come up with in terms of tying in with your blog. I would have chosen: My name is Luka. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZt7J0iaUD0 As an aside, in Indonesian, Luka means “wound.” Thanks for the music.And then at the end you casually throw out some Leonard Cohen. The cool persons’ cool. Wow!Some fave Cohen quotes: To keep our hearts open is probably the most urgent responsibility you have as you get older.The real weapons of mass destruction are the hardened hearts of humanity.[Leonard Cohen’s advice for success with women:] Listen well. Then listen some more. And when you think you are done listening. listen some more. This is probably Larry’s big secret with you.Looking forward to discussing everything in a few weeks.

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  3. Hi Michael ~ Your commentaries on posts have become so highly anticipated that when I see a new comment appear I find a quiet place to open the article in order to throughly enjoy your connections, additions, interpretation. It's so interesting to me to know where this takes you and how you're experiencing the very same subject I've spent time pondering ( I liken it to a cat tossing around a mouse toy).I love that you cherish the table Tyler branded with the beginning of his name as if he wanted to leave a memory of him that could not be erased. I find it even more interesting that you goaded your sister to fly, my sister Nancy also goaded me to attempt a simular feat and I have a scar to prove it. (By the way Nancy and Dave will be joining us at the lake!)I haven't seen the movie The Road? So I'm planning on viewing it on Netflix soon.I'm a big fan of the idea that your bad luck may have saved you from something worse. I \”try\” to view unexpected changes, events, situations that appear to be problematic with a scan for the positive. What good could come of this situation if I wasn't lamenting about the obvious change I'll be required to make? Usually I can find something but it doesn't change the initial trepidation when bad news hits. And a Lenard Cohen fan to boot! Love his advice on success with women! We are so looking forward to your visit! Safe travels.

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  4. Thank you for your kind words. I feel fortunate to have your blog to read as it allows me to think and reminisce and also affords me with an opportunity to write (which I didn't know I liked!) I confess that when school started up this fall I was concerned that your blog would go dark so to speak. Anyway, glad we will be able to meet Nancy and Dave. Looking forward to relaxing. I need a vacation.Thanks again.

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