Each moment in our lives creates a timeline of the many ups, downs, ugly cries, deep belly laughs, and scars in our lives. In relationships especially, the lows are the ones that tend to haunt us. But these lessons are also the ones that will guide us.
Remember the good, but don’t suppress the bad or the ugly.
Brushing off the bad memories will only create an empty void. I have to remember the many nights watching raindrops fall down the passenger window and crying out of fear. I cannot forget the hollowness that exists after years of emotional control and manipulation. The tragic moments that live deep in the shadows of my soul are important. They are lessons, not mistakes. They once burned holes in my heart, but the wounds are now scars. Scars that I can’t hide. Scars that I must remember. Scars that remind me to never lose my sense of self-worth. These disturbances are the base of my emotional armor. They are power behind my words and confidence. They allow me to say no, to say I deserve better, to say never again.
All the events in my life have shaped me and will also shape my future.
I am no stranger to emotional trauma and abusive relationships. I have worked on recognizing my triggers, being patient with myself, and being honest with those I share my life with now. But with every mountain I climb on the path to healing, I have realized I will never walk a perfect trail. At peak times, the road will become clearer and the rattlesnakes will back off, but new and old obstacles will always exist. It is important to understand that my emotional demons have shaped my path. My many ghosts have helped carve a tunnel through the mountains. These negative memories and experiences aren’t dead weight—instead, they work together with the light that shines down. Everything that has happened to me, over two and half decades, make up my entire existence.
Find balance between hope and defense.
For years I lived in a fortress. I stopped believing in love and happy endings. I created walls so thick I couldn’t see out and no one could see in. From that, my relationships suffered. I was only half a person. I had spent so many years in therapy working through my trauma that I found myself wearing it like a lead jacket. I built impenetrable walls with no doors in or out. I remembered my learned lessons, but I was fearful to try again. This is a lonely path.
However, upon entering my most recent relationship, I tried desperately to start anew. What I failed to realize is that new relationships cannot be brand new novels; instead, they’re fresh chapters in an existing book. In many ways, wanting a fresh start gave me a sense of optimism and hope I haven’t seen in myself for quite some time. I whittled away a safe passage through the defensive barriers. I shed myself from the weight of all I had overcome. I felt free from fear, distrust, and baggage. Maybe I was blind and slightly naïve, but it allowed me to nurture a budding romance, free from preconceived notions. I gave myself permission to trust again.
This approach only started to backfire when my feelings for this new love interest became stronger. I came to the realization that this “fresh start” was also a wall I put up. It was Sephora’s best concealer over old scars. I looked happy and that emotion shined from within, but I was ignoring all the lessons I learned. Of course it did not occur to me that I was disregarding my past, due to all the time spent therapeutically reflecting on it. But I was missing a piece of my true self. How could I ever fully commit to a new relationship without each and every special fragment of myself? My partner deserved the truth; so did I.
I wrote my fears, my anxieties, and my suffering back into my timeline. Until time travel is an option, my past will always live behind me. In it, I have learned what I need, what I have to offer, what I deserve, what I can work on, and what I refuse to accept. These hardships do not need to impede my future journey, but I also cannot ignore them. Shadows may linger closer on more treacherous days, but I know how to work through them. I have faced them before and will face them again. Those ghosts can be friends if I choose what to take from them. My instincts are driven by this deep history. I have everything I need to start a new chapter. My heart will let love in, my head will keep me logical, and my intuition will steer me through the moments of unease.
Scars are not blemishes. They are proof that you are strong. They are proof that you have the capacity to love. They are proof you are alive and will always persevere. Wear them proudly.