Those who are strong are not ashamed of their scars

british-flag     jahorina-zastava-srpska

I got the scar on my left ankle when I was five years old while I was playing hide and seek. I cut my leg on a broken beer bottle. My tendon showed. The one near the navel I got after an operation. Nothing serious. I survived. This one on the cheek – the one you cannot see with the naked eye – that’s from life. It slaps you sometimes. I’ve got used to it.

I have a couple more invisible to the eye. Behind the shoulders and on the back where the skin stretched, from growing up too fast, when your height exceeds your age, and your body gets too small trying to keep up. I have one on my palm. From the little water I cherished there for years that turned into acid and corroded. The other one is on the forefinger, when the nail separated from the flesh, which I thought would never happen, thus proving the old saying about them being inseparable wrong. The biggest one and the least visible of all, around the throat, that one is from strangling. This is how all Unspoken Words take revenge. They strangle you with a vengeance.

There are some more. Across and down. From falling and getting up, from biting my tongue facing Fear, from Hungry Wolves I tried to feed, from cutting myself on All The Things swept under the carpet, from my parents’ Good Intentions and my friends’ ‘‘I didn’t do it on purpose’’.

I thought for a long time that they could only heal if drowned in tears, if hidden from other people’s looks, if I denied their existence to myself. And then I discovered that someone else’s kind word healed better, faster and more effectively. But where to find it? Where to look for it? So, with an artificial smile on my face, with my scars hidden under the long sleeves that I pulled hard with my fists, I gave the impression of someone whose life had been nothing but plain sailing, least of all someone who’d been bruised by it. They did not know it did not wait for you to come of age before dealing you a heavy blow.

And where are your scars? I know there are some behind that broad smile, and even more behind that frowny face. All those cracks in the skin are not signs of weakness, but your road map, a synopsis of your experience, your natural tattoos. Don’t be ashamed of them. It is not just the weak who get scars because they do not know how to fight. Those who think they know how to fight get much deeper scars. It is the confident that Life likes to hit hard, in the back, viciously and unexpectedly. It gloats when it proves them wrong, feeds on their shattered self-esteem.

They are not signs of your weakness, but proof that you are alive. They rarely heal by themselves, from complaining even less. The scars from living are best healed with mutual silence. Those silences when words are not spoken, but looks say everything. When everything is healed with a hug. Mother’s. Father’s. Friend’s. Hers. His. So do not hide them. Show the world that being hurt and having survived is greater courage than being invincible.

Translated from the Serbian by Svetlana Milivojević-Petrović