I dipped back into my former life for the first time in five years this week. What I learned from that experience surprised me.
Nothing has changed much. Everything is underfunded. Good people are under-appreciated. Goals are unclear. Forward movement is glacial.
I felt empathy for the dedicated people who shoulder on in environments like these. It was a reminder of how everyone around us is likely carrying suffering. This is at once depressing and inspiring. On one hand, how can they have compassion for us if their hearts may ache with wounds as deep or deeper? On the other, seeking some small way to lighten their burden can be therapeutic.
When courageous souls are open about loss it gives us permission to be open about ours. We’ve found a fellow traveler along the path who gets us. And we can reciprocate with empathy, even if it involves revisiting our pain to create our own art with the best of what we’ve learned.
When given the chance to move forward, scars soften, and the exquisite music of creation can again enrich our spirits.
After we lost my only sister to suicide, I experienced joy when my brother-in-law found a new love. In welcoming his new wife, my new sister to our family, I sense Judy’s presence and have another being I can celebrate. Seeing Ed happy again teaches me how healing is possible, and role models exist to show the way.
In my fiction, the most interesting characters have suffered great trauma. I describe it as a battle scar, a medal revealing character and courage; pain motivating forward progress in the face of incredible odds.
And so it is outside the walled garden of an author’s imaginary stories. Using the unpleasant past, or an agonizing current reality as fuel for your hero’s journey can be compelling. The pain of experience never fully goes away. We can’t bring back the things we no longer possess.
Our mission becomes appreciating battle scars as the exquisite learning experiences they are meant to be and building something meaningful with the tools that remain.