Scars, scratches and letting go…

Today's moments are tomorrow's memoriesWe all have moments from our childhood that stick with us. Some are remembered because of the scars they left behind. Others for the warm tingle of feeling safe, happy, loved, free…

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.

Birthday #2 1976Not enough

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

Aristocrats-hat via

7 Responses to “Scars, scratches and letting go…”

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  1. Brenda says:

    Diane, I can relate to this story, as it is something that happened in one way or another over so many years when I was a child. As the youngest with many talented and intelligent siblings, I was forever in their shadow, so I learned to hide in the dark. It took years as an adult to find the light of life, but as Joan said above, such scratches can create unfortunate scars.

    Your blog is new to me, but your observations are welcomed and reflect a wisdom that will have long lasting effect.

    Thank you, too, for sharing.

  2. Loreen Graw says:

    I concur with the thoughts shared in this blog. I won’t go into detail but I also, and probably most people on this earth, experienced those moments as a child growing up. But we do grow up, don’t we? and sometimes all the stronger for it!

  3. Quinn says:

    I can relate to that feeling Diane – there have been many times when an offhand remark, though perhaps not intentional, can make you wonder if you are good at anything. The power of words cannot be underestimated; or should I say the power of the tongue. If people had any idea (and I probably am guilty of this as well), of saying things carelessly that hurt other people we would be a lot more careful of what to say. I don’t know why but I find that I often recall and nurture an unkind remark and perceive that person in a different light even though the person usually does not have a grudge against you or has completely forgotten the remark right away. One negative remark often is remembered longer than five (random number) compliments or positive remarks.

  4. Leora says:

    Yes I can relate to times when company visited that having been always very quick to do things I would see the speck of dust or notice that something was overflowing and draw attention to something that could bring Praise or stairs of that look I don’t believe this is happening. At times you wondered what did I do wrong or how come they think I did the act to get praise. Slight confusion experienced by growing up with many people coming and going and all ages and of course more attention because you were the youngest I have always felt put me into this situation many times.

  5. says:

    That’s so sad, Diane. It just goes to show how skewed our perceptions can be.

    We have a Community Choir in Peace River. We don’t hold auditions. We don’t expect members to read music. The choir is open to anyone who wants to experience the joy of singing together as a group. Every year we have a table at the Parade of Programs in which we invite people to join the choir. The overwhelming response is “I can’t sing.” My heart goes out to these people who probably sang freely as pre-schoolers and then, at some point in their childhood or early teenage years, became self-conscious of their voice. Perhaps a second grade teacher advised them to sing quietly in the back row during the Christmas concert? Perhaps they were teased by their peers? Whatever the case, they developed a perception that they couldn’t sing which they’ve held onto for decades. What a shame that we can allow an unfortunate scratch, as you say, to become a scar which inhibits us throughout our entire adult life.

    Early in my marriage, my husband told me I didn’t have a very good singing voice. I still remember how hurt I was by his comments, and that was 20+ years ago. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to him. I am president of our Community Choir and although I may not be a great singer, I get tremendous joy and satisfaction out of being part of a choral group. What wonderful experiences do we deny ourselves because of a fleeting comment or misperceived notion from our past?

    The first choir practice of the season is tomorrow night. I’ll be there.

  6. says:

    Beautifully written, Diane.
    The story is poignant and the follow-up quotes reflect the need understated in the story.
    Thanks for sharing, again.


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