336 – The Damaged

This is a very selfish blog. Though it started with good intentions it quickly veered into a monotonous monotribe about the things, people and places in the writer’s life. Those early posts, each centering on someone close to me at least invited discussion, proposing readers look at people in their own lives, at those people’s stories stories, to consider their relationships with them and blah blah blah.

It always surprises me, the posts people find most resonant. It shouldn’t, I suppose. The closer something is to my heart, the further it is from everyone else’s. Many of my entries here are too personal for people to find interesting, so they latch onto more generalised subject matter to which they can relate. Talking generally about bereavement–as I used to do–is a far cry from a sprawling 3,000 word entry which concerns everything from the stains on a dying man’s pyjamas to the texture of the wallpaper hanging in his home. God is in the details, but everyone’s deity smiles on them a little differently. My life is not yours; in posts like those, that point is made abundantly clear.

As is the fact that I’m a very damaged man. I’ve spent too long with my thoughts to shrug them off, and can only hope to muffle them with business. These posts generally come out in single sit-down sessions where I allow my thoughts free run. Too often they tear off in random directions and never get reined in. If you’ve ever read an aside that’s continued to grow larger like a runaway snowball, now you know how it came to be.

But–throwing a rope around the world in an attempt to draw it close–I think we’re all damaged people to some degree. We whizz like subatomic particles bouncing off one another, chipping each other in the process, creating crevices and fallout that’ll last a lifetime. My mum, my dad, my gran, my sister–all of us have been through bad times that have refracted life darkly. We’ve all lost people, found new friends and lost those as well and now we’re scattered to the wind we’ve all but lost each other. The Internet, keeping us together with spider threads, is no replacement for the closeness we once felt a very long time ago. The details might not be familiar but I imagine that’s a scenario every one of you can relate to to some degree.

Along the way, through comments and observations I’ve had insight into your lives, seen the damages wrought by unknown others as you find certain posts resonant. Beyond this post, talking on Twitter and Google+–even reading your own blog posts or listening to your podcasts–I’ve seen evidence of quakes belying an otherwise still surface. Not everyone is lucky enough to have had all their trauma confined to childhood, when they might have grown crookedly through it but grew all the same. My adulthood has been rather serene. I’ve never had to deal with blackmail, abusive spouses, insurmountable loans and credit cards like razor blades. I’ve never had to deal with mouths mewling for food and not enough hours in the day in which to feed them.

Damage, scabbed over, still healing or twisted into ugly scars becomes part of us. Some wear their scars proudly; others hide them shame-faced, not letting anyone see that their number grows with every passing day. Some, secretly, cut their own, ‘til their arms look like palm trunks, their legs like stringed pork.

It’s easy to pass these scars off as ugliness. We don’t think twice about it–metaphorically or otherwise–because the scars run so deep parts we can’t separate them from the wonderful person wearing them that is or was or could have been. There are studies that state alcoholics beget alcoholics, that abusers beget abusers. How do we help these people when their crimes can be so heinous they’re the last folk we want to help? Moreover, how do they help themselves?

Written small, damage results in grumpy souls and disagreeable people: assholes, we call them. And we wonder, paragons of virtue that we are, how anyone could be such a terrible human being unaware that somebody somewhere is asking the same thing about us.

I don’t want to make excuses. If I make them for myself, I make them for other people, and while it’s never good practise to tar everyone with the same brush I’m not sure it’s best to take the bathwater out with the baby, either.

Today I’m meeting someone who I’ve heard a lot about but never met. Her story is sorrowful, tortured: if she’s damaged then her wounds are still bleeding. By all accounts she’s a lovely person, the sweetest girl you could ever meet, but another damaged soul has trampled her heart and now she wails and aches.

It’s a familiar story until you reach the details. This is a tale of religious law and adulterous deception, and it ends as such a tale always does: in pain. There’s something very Shakespearean about it and the storyteller within me wishes he could expand the audience to embrace the world, so we might share her burden and transmute her woe to righteous hatred, burning bright. She needs to hate, this girl, for in hatred comes healing.

For now she weeps, as does her soul.

And I can’t say any more for fear of outing her identity and telling a story that was never mine to tell. But I feel for her, and while I never like anyone I want to like her, if only so she’ll have another sympathetic lantern to guide her from her darkness.

The sniveling cowardice and selfish, cowed indifference the person who hurt her has shown is almost pantomimic in its villainy. Deep down he must be damaged–he must be–for who was ever born so mean? My wife’s told me of studies into the sharing habits of babies. While most are happy to share and play, some hoard and hit without any cues or nurture inspiring them to do so. “Some babies are just bad,” she says by way of conclusion, but does that have to be the case? Are some of us born monsters, and wear disguises so our prey’s never the wiser? I don’t want to believe that. I don’t want to know it.

And then I see a man like this craven fool, throwing a world away for ritual and I hate him and everyone like him: every man who was ever a betrayer, every baby who was ever born bad.

Maybe his damage, too, has scarred him beyond recognition.

I wonder how other beings would see us. Robbed of our own social constructs do we become a globe of bad babies or one damaged and mourning? Would good deeds and pleasant nature undo the crimes we commit? Would hard labour earn us reprieve? Can you ever forgive those who’ve hurt you most, upon whose inflicted pain you’ve built the person you are today?

There are too many questions to be asked, far too complicated to answer.

Life goes on
And nothing is the same any more.

It’s taken me a long time to get my life back on track. Even now I’m not quite there, but I’ve taken my damaged self abroad into the arms of someone I love, and if we haven’t yet reached our destination together, we’re certainly on our way.

Weeks, months, maybe years behind us, I hope this girl finds her way to happiness as well. They might leave scars, they might leave us ugly, but all wounds heal in time.

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