A couple years ago, around Christmastime, I drove with my younger son to pick up my older son from a game at a nearby basketball court. It was dark, except for the lights of the court, which was situated up on a hill, accessible only by climbing a large flight of concrete stairs, which were not lit up. I sent the younger one to get his brother while I waited in the car. Thirty seconds later, I hear the most blood curdling scream I have ever heard in my life. It was my boy! I jumped out of the car and ran to where the cries were coming from. It was so dark, I could only make out that he was lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. I picked him up immediately, and could see that he was clutching his face with his hands. "Oh, God", I thought. I was terrified to see what had happened behind those hands. I brought him over to the car so I could see and when I uncovered his face, there was only blood. He couldn't tell me what had happened or what the injury was because he was still writhing in pain too much to speak. My oldest and I got him into the backseat of the car and raced him home to assess the situation. After cleaning the blood off his face, I discovered the wound that was responsible for all the bleeding. It was a three quarter inch gash right between his eyes. We were finally able to calm him down enough to tell us what had happened. He was running to get his brother, never even noticed the steps, tripped on the first step and smacked face first into the concrete. We doctored him up, and the wound eventually healed. But the scar remains. It has gotten better with time, lightened up a bit so that it's finally not the first thing I notice when I look at him- the reminder of the horrible feeling of helplessness at the sound of his screams, and the guilt for sending him just because I didn't feel like getting out of the car. Yes, the scar has definitely faded over time. But it will always be there.
And then there are the scars we can't see. The ones we may never fully identify, but we know are there by the pain we feel when we are rejected by a friend, a loved one, or a thirty year career. The pain that has us believing all the time that we aren't good enough or worthy enough in countless ways and in a multitude of circumstances. My oldest daughter's father lives in Las Vegas. She would visit him when she was younger every Christmas and every Summer. When she came back from her visits with him, she would just cry and cry at bedtime, saying that she missed her Daddy. I was so upset by that sentiment, since in my mind I was the one who had always been there for her, providing every material need, including the plane tickets to see her Dad so as to facilitate a healthy relationship between the two of them, even though we had moved away. I felt angry at her and rejected by this person that had come from my own body. So I didn't console her. Instead, I just told her it was bedtime and she needed to go to sleep. I closed the door on her cries because they were too much for me to bear. Years later, we still struggle with her feelings of being rejected by me when she needed me most. It is heartbreaking to think of the scars I was responsible for forming in her tiny mind, that she will now carry for a lifetime. We have had honest conversations about that period of life. I have apologized and asked to be seen for the imperfect human that I am, and she has forgiven me. Yes, the scar has definitely faded over time. But it will always be there.
When we talk about why we practice the Four Seeds of Self-Care, which is ultimately for optimal brain health and to feel as good as possible both physically and mentally, we also talk about what will grow from the tiny seeds we consistently plant- easier accomplishment of personal goals, fostering more meaningful relationships, and better connecting with our community. The relationship and community aspect of our wellness cannot be overlooked. Giving time, attention, and compassion for others is simply another way of giving those gifts to ourselves. When we identify how much we have in common with our our fellow man, we realize it is part of our human responsibility to reach out to others in need.
I know a lady who seemingly had a perfect little suburban family. Two kids and a husband, went to church, pretty house. Then one day, she discovered her daughter was cutting herself. I bet you've heard stories like that, too. I know someone who's bright future of playing professional sports was cut short by an injury before they could even accept their first college scholarship, and now all that's left are the scars that remind of a dream never realized. I bet you know someone like that, too. I know someone who, when she looks down at her belly, will always see the symbol of her failed natural birth through her c-section scar- the reminder of the day she began to believe her body was fundamentally flawed. Maybe you are her. I know someone who was at the top of their game in his professional career, only to succumb to a series of job losses and older age that has left scars of rejection and lack of confidence in himself or his future. Maybe you are him.
Everywhere you look, if you choose to do so, humanity is maimed, amputated, injured,addicted, orphaned, widowed, neglected, abused, hopeless, scared, depressed, and on and on. We all carry scars, either mentally or physically. Look deeper before you are so easily offended by someone flipping you off in traffic, or before you judge someone's parenting philosophies, or before you label ANYONE as ANYTHING. You don't know the scars they carry, but you CAN relate to having scars if you are honest with yourself. They may have just manifested differently for you. John Bradford, an evangelical preacher, coined the phrase, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." He was basically calling for compassion in our communities with one another and the identification of ourselves in another human. When we consistently practice self-care, we are more easily able to identify our own suffering and have empathy for other's suffering as well. And where there is empathy for others, a community grows stronger and healthier.
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel