“I don't want to die without any scars.” - Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
This past weekend, I visited a close friend of the family in Bern.
Lydia is almost 90 and has recently been through the loss of three close family members and a bed bug infestation in her apartment which she had to vacate for 3 weeks. Once all this was over, she ended up in hospital with a viral infection.
She describes this year as feeling like she had lost the ground beneath her feet.
And yet she said something very simple about her recent experience which really touched me.
Life is meant to mark you.
Intrigued, I asked her what she meant by this.
She explained that difficulty is a part of life and that we should let ourselves be changed by it instead of resisting it or expecting that life shouldn’t affect us in any way.
She explained that she has come out of this last year re-shaped by grief, by loss, by adversity.
That through this, she was able to connect even more strongly to how much family means to her, to how important it is to have a home and how much more empathy she now has for refugees. She was able to allow herself to accept help from friends, to have support she couldn’t imagine would be there before needing it.
She said it wasn’t just about trying to move forward as if nothing had happened or expecting everything to just go back to the way it was before.
She has come out of this re-shaped: More vulnerable, more tender, more appreciative.
She compared this to wrinkles which she sees as signs we have experienced many years of life.
If we are alive and growing, wrinkles will mark us in the same way life will.
Life is meant to mark you.
This really spoke to me. Because I do not want to glide through life, unscathed and unaffected by it.
We can’t just gloss over the loss of a loved one or a difficult situation.
The point is not to just get over difficult experiences or put them away in a room of our mind and close that door forever.
If we don’t let ourselves be marked by life, we inevitably cut ourselves off from what mattered to us which is all mixed up in the pain.
We hurt because we care.
And if we care, we will inevitably be marked by life.
If we love, we will be hurt. We are going to be marked by loss. And it’s OK to allow this to mark us, to re-shape us a little because it is a sign that we loved and that love touched us, re-shaped us.
We will never be the same again, and that’s OK.
The point is not to be happy all the time. Life is not about a general OK-ness.
Being fully alive is about feeling everything - not just the good stuff. All of it. Allowing it to flow through, without resistance.
In order to be a fully alive, caring human, life will inevitably mark us.
Perhaps the point is not to try to live life unscarred, unblemished, un-reshaped in any way.
Perhaps it is about being able to proudly bare all of it - wrinkles, blemishes, scars - as proof that we lived - and that we chose to grow from pain - perhaps to allow our tender, slightly broken hearts to connect even more deeply with others instead of numbing or cutting ourselves off from pain.
The truth is that it hurts because it’s real. It hurts because it mattered. And that’s an important thing to acknowledge to yourself. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t end, that it won’t get better. Because it will.” - John Green, The Fault in Our Stars