I've talked before about the idea of the Truthiness of Me and of my drive to honor my truths—good and bad—regardless of what the vast majority of people think. Muchness and Light is, in some ways, a public exploration of that. I talk very openly about a lot of things—from my fears and failures to my triumphs, my body image and weight loss issues and the subsequent surgeries. Early in my process of reawakening, I determined that is was viscerally important to me to be as honest with my readers as I could stand. I am very often this way in my offline, day-to-day life, as well.
Turns out, apparently I'm not so much like other people.
"You're willing to embrace your scars and show them," Mandypants said. "You're willing to embrace the scars of other people, of the people you love. And that is brave and beautiful, but it is not like 98% of people."
My therapist nodded emphatically in agreement when I told her.
When I saw Tiff for Pretty, Pretty Princess Night a couple of weeks ago, she saw the edges of the brachioplasty scars peeking from the backs of my arms. "Those scars are kind-of cool," she remarked. "They're really pretty badass."
Most of my female friends feel the same way. Interestingly, most men ask if and when the scars will fade, or if they can be hidden.
Tiff and I went on to talk about this idea of baring my scars proudly, like a badge of honor.
"I get why that's important to you," she said, "but I am a very private person. I would be mortified to bare everything so openly."
I don't understand. Really. I mean, I get it in my head that not everyone is so tolerant of such self-examination, even when the forum isn't so public. That is, ultimately, the own to each. But in my heart, I have some ingrained block against comprehending why it would be bad to point out your own journey via the roadmap of your scars. It seems ludicrous not to be embracing of the good and the bad, to see and accept the awful as equally powerful and enlightening as the splendid.
Scars, whether literal or figurative, are simply reference points, like landmarks of a person's journey. They're invariably the product of wounding. Usually that wounding is unintentional and painful. More often than not, it is from injury that was inflicted, whether by someone else or by ourselves.
I have a small scar in my eyebrow from running into a television stand twice when I was very young. I have faded silvery lines that came from exploded fireworks and bicycle accidents and stretch marks from growth. There's a small indentation of missing bone in my right ankle, where it was chipped away by the angry, pointed toe of an abusive ex-boyfriend's cowboy boot.
Scars may also be the unintentional consequences of good things. Nearly every mother I know has either an abdominal C-section scar, or a scar from where her natural vaginal tear (or perhaps her episiotomy) healed after birthing her precious baby. I have the new, lengthy scars from my own series of surgeries, trading in the old emotional baggage for something more (and less) physical.
And, as Mo roundaboutedly reminded me last night, tattoos are a great example of almost-always chosen scars. "The truth is like a tattoo. It accurately represents who you are at the exact moment it is revealed."
Maybe all scars are like that. Maybe they pinpoint not only where you were when you got them, but also how and why you were—all of which make up the Who of You.
So what should be so wrong in talking about that? What is the problem in discussing and showing how and when and why you came into being Who?
The problem, as I understand it, is two-fold:
1) Talking about your trauma and damage and all of your little anecdotes of agony can make other people uncomfortable. Apparently men are especially likely to feel off-put by such honesty, based on anecdotal evidence. According to my therapist, the greatest or most common fear of men, generally, is shame. There's something there are about self-respect and identity, of reputation and persona. (For women, the prevalent fear is being killed. It has to do with safety and feeling unprotected and vulnerable.)
2) Injury is so often inflicted by another person. To tell your own story is fine. To discuss the parts of your story that intersect with others may open their wounds, or cause them inadvertent discomfort.
It doesn't seem that talking about the damage that's already been done should be inflicting. There's not necessarily onus to your action; discussion isn't malicious, by default. It's bleeding edge versus cutting edge. At most, it's a matter of pointing out the wound and addressing it in an effort to help it heal. Debriding might hurt like hell, but it's ultimately a much better alternative than leaving the wound to fester, never to have the opportunity to scar in healing—or worse.
So what to do, when your life is words, and you're all about this Verisimilitude of Self?
It's a fine line, really. There's a right to publicity and right to privacy that overlap. Am I talking about someone else's immoral or illegal behavior? Is what I'm saying true? Is it potentially embarrassing but cogently honest?
And it's hard sometimes, to know when to share and when to hold back. I have to tap into that place inside me, the Wellspring of Verity, where I find what is unequivocally right, regardless of whether or not is right for me or anyone else, specifically. At the very least, it is what is right right now. If I find that Point Me shifts to another place and time, what is right today might very well turn out to be wrong tomorrow. But tomorrow isn't guaranteed, and all I can be sure of is this moment and the ones from which I came.
Just because something hurts, that doesn't mean it's bad. Growth can be painful. Sadness and anger can hurt like fucking hell, but they usually bring us closer to some new understanding of ourselves. That is what is so sublime about the raw power of self-cultivation and transcendence.
So here are my scars. Here is the proof from whence I came. Some of you came from there with me, though some of you can't admit that. Somehow, in your own arrogance or sadness or anger, you have valued me as worth less than your own shame. That is on you.
I do have worth and value, for who I am and the things I have endured. The web of scars, both apparent and unseeable, is the Substrate of Stephanie. It is the topography of my life, at least to this point.
For all that I have done and seen and felt and lived, in ways that may have been profound only to me, I am defensible. And I will defend my self and my worth at all costs, because it is always more precious than shame.