Monday 1 January 2018

The Scars Inside Ourselves

It’s the dead of winter, and still a surprise to run a thumb across my wrists and find grooves where the strings were once tied.

My breath fogs against the icy glass, a storm between two panes, and as the familiar parts of me begin to ache and howl, I quiet them with a warmth and stillness of my own. Something in me has healed, a once damaged light which only now fixed reveals the other wounds I didn’t know I had. It’s funny, isn’t it? How skin toughens into scar tissue, but only once it’s been destroyed.

When I was younger, I was obsessed with the scar on my forehead. A thin white gash that extends into my hairline, from a childhood accident involving a glass door and an untied shoelace. At school, scabs and scars and broken bones were social currency, a way to prove how interesting you were, and how you had got here. And I displayed mine with pride, a jagged pearlescent trophy of my resilience and bravery, because here was healing you could prove. A neat story from start to finish, a memory immortalised with a permanent souvenir. But not all healing is as linear. I wonder how many of those other children were carrying the scars that could not be seen.

I am a woman now, and I have collected many scars along the way.

It pains me to credit man for any manner of my making, but there is a heaviness I carry that could’ve been forged by none other. I was raised by my mother, protected by my sister, and understood by my aunt, but only ever because men were either incapable, or worse, unwilling. While on the surface I grew older and wiser over the years, softer and kinder from the impact of brilliant women, what in fact forged my character was the scar tissue growing inside of me; bitter, blanched and tough from the claw marks men left on my soul. When I later began my path of self-discovery and the male indifference inevitably reversed, I became prey, vulnerable and completely exposed through my naive desire to excavate the reason why I was the way that I was. I began as we all do, ethereal and vague, with no defined edges or sharp corners, open to any and all things that could impact me. Today I stand misshapen and tough, like a long-chewed piece of gum spat out by the world, warped from years of changing myself to be enough for the men that I have loved. But in my toughness is strength. That resilience and bravery that was foretold on my skin. And I have arrived, fully-formed and blossoming into that shape I have ended up being. Because unlike the scar on my head or the proud injuries we displayed as children, sometimes we can learn how to undo the scars inside ourselves. And that is what I have come here to do.

This silent year I killed the puppet master. I tugged at my own strings and the faceless man fell, stumbling on his own surprise. I didn’t know I could do it until I did. And I turned and looked up into the beady eyes of the man of all men and watched as my own thieved purity seeped from his fatal wound. Then I dug the strings from their well-worn grooves and I stepped out into the cold alone. A woman who’d never again be controlled by man.

The last scorned woman.

I can’t promise I’ll do it right, but I promise I’ll do enough.