The people that hurt us leave scars. Curves of shiny thin skin that catch the tips of our fingers as we run them down our arms. They make us pause and rub them gently as we recall how we got them. If we’re not careful, we’ll look up to find the sun setting and wonder where the day went. The past is the past, yes, but it’s always, always trying to claw its way back into the now.
The pain of the past haunts us, long after it’s time is done. Whispering its lies so often they become a refrain we can’t get out of our heads; a dark lullaby to sing our souls to sleep. It’s black ice on the road home. A teacher peddling poor lessons. A hunk of magnetic rock, sitting next to our inner compass, throwing us off the straight lines we’d otherwise walk toward those who adore and care for us.
That pain becomes a chain binding us to a stake in the ground, driven deep into the moment we were hurt. It gives the illusion of freedom, but just try to walk away; just try to get at what’s good for you, and you’ll feel the yank of the last link at your neck. That pain only lets us so close to joy and love and happiness. So close we can almost take its hand. We can feel the atoms between the tips of our fingers as we reach out for one another; smell the sweetness of its clean aroma… and come to despise it, come to fear love rather than the chains that keep us from it.
The people that hurt us are the bared teeth of the slobbering, barking bitch that made us flinch and cry out and run as we passed by. The angry, miscreant dog who gives us hate for even the smallest mutt with the biggest heart. That pain is the lie that feels bigger than the truth. The jacket hanging on the closet doorknob at night that we’re convinced is a creature waiting for us to close our heavy eyes and eat us whole.
That pain drains us. Steals our joy. Robs us of equanimity and a fleshy beating heart in the center of our chest to give away as we please. It tightens our fists around our love so that we eventually smother it rather than dare have anyone scar it again. Our past hurts define and infect our future relationships so that our heart being broken is a self-fulfilling prophecy if we allow it. That pain will take the wheel in its greedy hands and drive us until we fall apart. It controls us. It can become our god.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
We don’t have to let our pain roughly take us by the arm and jerk us along. Knowing the shape of those cruel fingers can help us pull away, scream in its face, and take the first tremulous steps towards freedom. Speaking its name, if but just a whisper, can begin to banish it. Giving ourselves to healthy relationships and learning to trust again can be like a bath in a hot spring. It’s small steps that lead the long way to freedom. But never let that liar tell you there’s no such thing as freedom.