Most often, I write about peppy things. I encourage you to focus on the bloom not the thorn, the sun not the clouds, the healing not the injury. But last night, I was reminded it’s also important to address those injuries sometimes, because we all have scars in varying shapes and sizes. Especially in love.
I’ve known Darin for over twenty years (we lived just a few miles from each other growing up) and if you don’t know his work yet, you’d be wise to check it out. He’s published some very successful novels (Chang & Eng,The Real McCoy, More Than It Hurts You) and this, his first memoir, is getting rave reviews. (He read from the book on This American Life, GQ magazine excerpted it, and here’s the review from The New York Times.) In a word, it’s incredible.
Half a Life is the true story of a painful incident in Darin’s teenage life when his car hit a girl on her bike and killed her. It wasn’t his fault, but he spent the next half of his life dealing with the guilt and judging his life through the glasses of the tragedy. In the book, Darin writes:
“The accident taught me this. Things don’t go away. They become you. There is no end, as T.S. Eliot somewhere says, but addition: the trailing consequence of further days and hours. No freedom from the past, or from the future. But we keep making our way, as we have to.”
It makes me think of all the hurts that happen to us in love and relationships that we also have to keep making our way with—for weeks, months or decades. Maybe it’s a partner who cheated or lied and you wonder what you did wrong to deserve it. Maybe it’s a love that unraveled over time and you keep replaying what you could have done differently to stop it. Maybe it’s emotional or physical abuse that scars your heart like a gash can scar a face for good. Or maybe it’s a death or a loss that makes you question if it’s worth loving at all if things hurt this much when it ends.
As Darin’s book reminds us, the painful, terrible scars on our bodies and in our hearts will always be there. But it’s up to us to learn how to live without blaming the people or things that have hurt us, and without blaming ourselves for how long it’s taken to get over it. Life is not about denying the scars from our past, but about weaving them into our present lives and making what good we can of it.
Bad things happen to good people all the time. It’s not fair. But if you can learn to see it from the right angle, those injuries, over time, can become vehicles for something greater for you. Let your scars make you stronger, wiser and more empathetic. Let them deepen who you are as a human, not shield you from wanting to feel things in your future. And let them build you a better life not confine you to a ruined one. We’re stronger than we think, and as our scars heal, so should we.