When I was about five years old, my Dad came home from work for lunch one day and we were playing. He was sitting on the sofa and was throwing a small pillow that I would chase after and bring back to him and he’d throw it again. I guess we were playing fetch (and I was the dog). On one of those throws, the pillow flew out of the room and as I was chasing it, I slid across the floor, landing on my right hand, and tearing open my index finger. I think it only required four stitches but there was blood. I remember it happening, going to the doctor, getting a chocolate Tootsies Pop for being so brave and then a cherry Slush from Dairy Queen on the way home. I don’t remember any of the pain. As a result, my fingernail is permanently bent on the side and my cuticle is a little deformed. My Dad and I talked about it recently and even though it wasn’t his fault, he said he always felt bad about it.
Fourteen years ago at my last job, I had an accident with a cherry picker that could have killed me. My nose was broken, I had a black eye and a really nasty gash on my head. That wound required many more stitches, surgery on my nose and left me with some permanent scars. The biggest one peeks out of my hairline on my forehead and is about 3-4 inches long running back through my scalp. It’s still sensitive to this day but I hardly even think about it or notice it… it’s just a part of me.
Even though I’ll always have the physical scars as a reminder, it was the mental scars of the event that really affected me. The accident was a result of me doing my job. There were no labels or markings on the equipment and I was trying to move it and load it on a truck because the maintenance department had not done so, fulfilling the work order I had submitted. I was under a deadline and was told, “You WILL do what ever is necessary to have this completed”. The rest is history. I was back at work before I had to be, even as my nose was packed with cotton, black eye and stitches.
What I never expected was to be called in and have my job threatened. They said I acted irresponsibly and then tried to make me sign a statement saying I was completely at fault. They were trying to prevent any form of law suit, which never even occurred to me up to this point. I refused. I continued to be treated poorly after that. I knew my days were numbered because I was now a liability… and I left as soon as I could. (Within a couple weeks of the accident, the safety and warning stickers that had been absent, suddenly appeared all over the equipment! Extra safety gear was purchased and new policies were also put in place.)
The emotional scars I carried with me from that accident far outweighed the physical ones. A couple years later, I realized I hadn’t really looked at myself in the mirror since then. Yes, I used the mirror to shave but I wasn’t seeing myself. Looking at the scars… really seeing them… brought back the pain of how I was treated as a result of just trying to do my job.
The physical and emotional scars we carry with us really have a huge impact on who we are. They affect how we act or don’t act, our decisions and our reactions to others. Being able to share those scars with others– significant others, friends and co-workers, gives them so much incite into how we think and react the way we do. It’s our own abilities to build the trust and feel safe enough to share our experiences with others, that affects our relationships and attitudes.
I have a friend who lashed out at me once in a particular situation and I didn’t understand why. Later, she shared a particularly painful experience from her past and I was able to make the connection. That knowledge enabled me to prevent it from ever happening again. The key is to not let our emotional scars disfigure our hearts and personalities. We have to try to learn from them and use them to make us stronger. Our scars affect us… we just can’t let them become us.
Today’s Pic of the Day: My right index finger.