Sunday, August 7, 2016

Emotional Scar Gel

A few months ago my seventeen-year-old daughter fell and had to get stitches on her knee. She now has a sizable scar just below her right kneecap.  We got her scar gel, a topical application which is supposed to "reduce the appearance, color, and texture of scars."  I am so glad that there is a product out there that can mitigate the effects of physical scars.  But what do you do about mental and spiritual scars, which run much deeper and cause much more long-lasting pain?

Emotional scar gel is harder to find because it has to come from within us instead of on a shelf at the drugstore.  It CAN be found within our hearts and our minds however, in the form of things like:

Belief in a better tomorrow.
Opening up yourself to receiving love.
Doing what makes you happy.
Following a passion.
Having faith in something bigger than yourself.
Putting the past behind you once and for all.

Yes, you have every right to be upset, angry, frustrated, indignant, sad, and vengeful about how you were treated and what happened to you.  It was cruel, wrong, unjust, unfair, painful, undeserved and unjustified.  But feeling those feelings every day instead of feeling happy and hopeful about the life you have created for yourself NOW only leaves you flailing around in all of that sadness and despair that was caused (most likely) a long time ago. Or even a short time ago.  By clinging to those scars and what caused them, you have no freedom to pursue love or creativity or true happiness. You are essentially living in the scar, instead of growing healthy tissue around it.

Look at professional surfer Bethany Hamilton.  She lost her entire left arm to a shark attack.  Did she let herself be defined by that immense and incredibly conspicuous physical scar? Not even a little bit. She returned to surfing one month after the attack, kept competing and winning surfing competitions, plus wrote a best selling book, has appeared on multiple television shows, had a major motion picture made about her life, and played herself in a major film.  Along with all of that, she also fell in love, got married, and gave birth to a son in 2015.

If she had given up surfing, given up competing, given up on her once planned-out life, it would have been expected and considered a reasonable reaction to what happened to her. In short, she got a free pass to let her disfigurement define her. But my guess is she would have been unhappy and unfulfilled every day, letting the scar rule her life and make the rest of her life decisions for her, regardless of what her mind and heart desired.

She is the perfect example of someone who moved past her injury to immense success and boundless joy.  Each of us has sustained injuries, both physical and emotional, and if we are able to move past them - administer our own emotional scar gel to ourselves - then we don't allow outside circumstances or occurrences determine our ultimate happiness or well-being.

Scarring is a natural part of the healing process.  And scars can be a good reminder to not put ourselves into harm's way.  But every scar is proof that we can survive whatever life throws at us, and that we are able to truly heal and move on from each one.

Eat, Pray Love...YOUR way

I recently heard that Elizabeth Gilbert, the author and protagonist of the wildly popular autobiographical best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, was separating from her husband.  The husband who was the culmination of her year-long, emotionally wrenching, soul defining journey described in her book. This separation caused an enormous uproar from the devotees of her writing.  "How could this happen?!" they shrieked. "He was her soulmate!" "He's the one she was looking for all along, if THEY can't make it, how can WE?!"

Now first of all let me share that while I did read Eat, Pray, Love, I skipped ahead when I got bored during the "Pray" part, and ultimately skipped to the end after finishing only about 2/3 of the entire tongue searching, mind expanding, heart seeking tome.  (I did however, watch the entire movie, of which I thoroughly enjoyed every scene containing the artfully scruffy, earnest faced handsomeness of Javier Bardem.) The book clearly resonated with a lot of people, particularly women, especially after it, and the author became an Oprah-fueled sensation.

About six months after the hoopla, I heard from a close relative that he personally knew of 4 women who left their husbands after reading the book.  In all of these cases the husbands were completely blindsided by the wives' sudden revelations of their misery and ultimate departures.  Since I don't know these people I'm not saying that they should have stayed in these marriages if they were unhappy and unfulfilled.  If this book gave them the courage to finally leave an untenable situation then I completely applaud that.

But I many women left their situations because they were lulled into the false hope that they would meet and mutually fall in love with Javier Bardem on a faraway island.  How many women threw away their diet regimens (which I am personally in favor of discarding wholeheartedly) only to find that they were not able to miraculously lose the 40 or 50 pounds gained during their "Eat" phase, because they do not share the expedient metabolism of our fair leading lady?  It seems that a great number of women who followed strictly in Elizabeth Gilbert's exact footsteps became disillusioned and disappointed when they were not blessed with her same, positive outcomes.

Why did this happen?

Because they were traveling on someone else's journey.
One that was not meant for them.

Other people's journeys can provide insights and inspiration and tools to help you follow your own journey, but your life journey is meant for you alone.

The people you meet, the jobs you have, and the triumphs and disappointments that you experience all make up the life that you learn from and enjoy and inhabit.  And while you can most definitely learn and grow from the experiences of other people's lives, they are not yours to live.  You cannot compare your marriage to others' because no matter what a couple looks like on the outside, you can never know what's really behind closed doors.  Because you SHOULDN'T!  Those are private experiences between the partners and however they make their relationship work is up to them.  Moreover, you should never try to model your own life based on someone else's opinion, situation, or decisions.  You were given a set of circumstances, which lead to your own experiences, which is your own personal life to live! If you are unhappy with a situation, by all means change it, but change it based on what's inside YOUR heart, and YOUR mind, and YOUR soul.  Not someone else's, who is on a completely different journey from yours anyway.

I'll admit, when I first heard of Liz Gilbert's separation from Jose Nunes I felt a pang of disappointment.  As if Cinderella's prince came to her 12 years later and said, "The slipper ain't enough anymore babe."  But that's when I had to remind myself, real live isn't a made up fairy tale.  These are real people, going through real life, and what goes on behind their closed doors is their business, not mine. As Elizabeth Gilbert said herself, "This is a story I'm living, not a story I'm telling."

I wish them the best as they figure out the next chapter of their respective journeys.  And I wish you the best on whatever chapter of your life you're in right now.  I encourage you to follow your own path and make each decision every day on based on what's right for YOU, not on what anyone else says, or does.  In short, eat what's best for you, pray what's best for you, and love however is best for you.  Always be true to YOU, and you'll see what miraculous things will happen when you do. Better than in any best-selling book about someone else.