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I’ve been thinking about scars lately, not literal scars but the ones we bear deeper inside.  Some scars symbolize the toughest moments of our lives– the ones where someone or something has so deeply and profoundly wounded us that the fragments left behind are still as painful as the day they became lodged within us.  But some scars symbolize the most beautiful moments of our lives– the ones where someone or something has so deeply and profoundly imprinted their story upon us and the fragments left behind, while they may in fact be painful, are now tinged with a beauty that is indescribable.

I can think of my own beautiful scars, point to each one and say,”This is where my friend and I sat and cried and shared our pain, where our stories became inextricably connected as we realized similar abuse we experienced,” or “This is where I witnessed my friend’s self-imposed physical pain and she witnessed mine and we saved each other, yes we saved each other from ourselves,” or even “This scar is where I saw you hurting and I held that hurt within me and kept it close to my heart even though I don’t even know your name.”  Even now, as I write this, I feel a deep sadness at the thought of these scars, at the precious memory of those moments and the deep, deep pain involved.  But I know that our stories did not end there; had I not been down in the deep muck and mud of these people’s lives, had I not bled, cried, and raged with them, had I not cried out for justice with them, I would have never seen the beauty of having come through.  And what a deeply raw and real beauty it is!

I believe that it is hard to truly appreciate the value of life until you have seen someone attempt suicide and come through.  It is hard to truly appreciate love until you have heard someone’s story of sexual abuse and seen them come through.  It is hard to truly appreciate beauty without witnessing pain and seeing beauty come through.  This isn’t to say that the pain is no longer present.  The healing process is painful and it is continual; that’s what the scar represents.  But the difference is that, although we still feel that pain, it no longer controls us or dictates our response.  And healing is hard, incredibly hard, but when you allow it to take its sweet old time, wow is it powerful!

I have found that this cycle of pain, healing, and beauty is not possible without stories; they are the link that holds the whole process together.  The stories are so important!  Sometimes these stories are ones I tell myself, the story of my own pain.  Sometimes these stories are ones others tell me, the story of their pain.  Sometimes these stories are ones we create together, the story of our shared pain.  No matter how they began, these stories ignite the flame of the healing process for, once they are released, they are no longer ours to bear alone.  This creates a risk, however, in hearing stories because then we have the responsibility of bearing them.  But, at the same time, hearing stories connects us at the most human level, providing glimpses into each others complicated, messy lives.

I am so thankful for the stories that have shaped me along my journey.  Many of these stories are ones you have shared with me and I am deeply and humbly grateful for the chance to be a part of your story, to witness your pain.  I am also deeply and humbly grateful that you have chosen to witness my pain and hear my story.  I suppose this message really has nothing to do directly with my experience in New York except for the fact that I am constantly engaging in stories.  Sometimes I deliberately choose to be part of the storytelling process but sometimes I am part of someone’s story simply by being in their world.  I encourage you to look for these intersections of stories and to seek out where you can tell and here stories.  For what are we without our stories?