Yet what about the moments that are more like scratches? We can remember something that happened, but we dismiss it because it seems small or inconsequential. This couldn’t have impacted me, it was so minor.
In a recent creative non-fiction writing class, we were asked to write a short piece about a childhood memory. I chose one that was vivid but was not high up on the emotion-meter. Yet when I went through the process of capturing the story on paper, I realized that the scratch still hurt.
It made me stop and think about the power of writing versus journaling. For me, the latter usually results in an outpouring of emotion. While that has its benefits, writing the experience as a scene made me focus on other details which rounded out the experience and gave me a different perspective. In the process, the writer-me was able to honor that all scratches — big or small — do hurt. And I was able to give it the kiss it needed to heal.
It was the first time the pieces fell together. The first time I said it out loud. The first time adults around me stumbled in that split second afterwards: their silence cementing in my head their agreement. I was eight years old.
It was 1974, the year I faithfully watched every episode of The Six Million Dollar Man. The year the Edmonton Eskimos lost the Grey Cup for the second year in a row (despite my shoveling the walk during half time as a trade-off to the football gods to let them win).
I don’t remember the name of the couple who came over that night in 1974. I don’t know if it was before or after dinner, but I remember Mom and Dad sitting on one loveseat, the unnamed couple on another. It was all so polite. My sister and I were not stuck in the basement playing with other children. We were upstairs with the adults, in the living room with the pretty cream colored loveseats covered in bright yellow flowers. The velvet armrest covers neatly in place, coffee table Pledged to a sheen, protective wrap on the table lamps dusted, the faint lines of the vacuum cleaner still visible in the blue shag rug, light blue curtains pulled open to let in the evening sun, sheers closed to add a modicum of privacy.
I am sitting on the organ bench facing my sister who is at the piano. Her fingers are prancing, her feet stretching to reach the pedals to add emphasis to the magical sounds her lithe fingers produce. Mom and Dad sit proudly. The unnamed couple sit in awe listening to this curly haired little girl play like an adult. I am starting to fidget, legs swinging back and forth, not in sync with the tempo of the classical piece but with my own need to move.
When the piece comes to a close, the adults clap. Then the unnamed woman turns to me with a smile and says what to my ears means, “What do you do?”
I freeze. My thoughts whirl. I can climb a tree better than anyone, shoot hoops, catch a long bomb, run faster than everyone in my class, but I realize none of that means anything, here in this living room.
“Nothing,” I say.
“Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.” — Buddha
“When you’re different, sometimes you don’t see the millions of people who accept you for what you are. All you notice is the person who doesn’t.”– Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart
“You might feel worthless to one person, but you are priceless to another. Don’t ever forget your worth. Spend time with those who value you.” — Sr. Zakia Usmani.
“Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.” — Rachel Naomi Remen
“When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.” — Rabindranath Tagore