Battle Scars: Uncovering Their Masks

Gazing at my reflection the other day, I searched for the scar that my daughter’s angry tirade had left on my face.

Sun-faded under a layer of newly tanned skin, one of the many scars from that awful day, the one just under my left eye, was now six months into my past. I peered closer, trying to find it but the mark – in the exact shape of a fingernail – was gone now. If I wanted to see it I would have to scan back through the pictures on my cell phone.

But I didn’t need a physical reminder. The physical scars that she’d left on me are now the emotional battle scars in my mind.  I didn’t need to see the imprint of my daughter’s nail embedded in my skin to remember the blood, feel the sting of my tears in the wound, nor deal with the anguish of having my own flesh and blood fighting me.  The scar that lingers the longest – the emotional one – was now emblazoned in my mind.

Like war veterans, rape victims or child sexual assault victims and many other women who have experienced any level of abuse at the hands of a “loved one,” my task is now to move forward, burdened with a scar and a story that only my eyes are privy to.

It’s the task that looms the most difficult – moving past our emotional battle scars. They linger long into our adulthood, invading our emotional state as we try to parent our children or forge relationships with friends, loved ones and significant others. They shouldn’t be difficult to recognize with their thinly-disguised attempts at anonymity, yet we usually don’t recognize them until it’s too late.

As women, we tend to think that we are invincible, that we can endure anything. We are Mother Earth after all aren’t we? Under our tutelage, a nation full of powerful women will populate our future, just as women such as: Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, Marion Wright Edelman, and Indira Ghandi populated our past.  But unlike physical scars which crust over and heal, emotional ones need a bit more tending. When we don’t recognize that, we give the emotional scars that are left on our hearts and in our minds too much power. And with renewed strength, they will damage our present and sabotage our future.

How does that happen? How is it possible that one trauma, one dark moment in our lives, ruin our future? Well, it’s because that one emotional scar, left unattended in our minds long enough, will begin to shape our thoughts. Once that happens, what was strange will become our norm.

“A man [woman] is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” – Mahatma Ghandi

Sit down for a moment, close your eyes and take a look at your life. Look at your thoughts, your actions, the words you say right now. Are they you? Can you think back to an earlier part of your life when you felt peaceful and in control of your thoughts, when stress wasn’t weighing you down? Are you same person today that you were then? Or did an event, or accumulation of events, lead you down a path you never thought you would walk?

When I close my eyes, I remember my thoughts as a teenager. I remember wanting to be a Mom; wanting to have children of my own to hug and kiss and nurture. It didn’t dawn on me then that I was harboring battle scars of my childhood that I needed to tend to before I had children. I never thought that what was lingering in my mind was powerful enough to ruin my relationship with my daughter, and scar her to the point where she thought it was okay to put her hands on me.

I cringe when I see other women, mothers, living their lives unaware that they could be damaging their own children. Women screaming at their toddlers instead of nurturing them or letting television and a scarred community raise their children because they are emotionally empty. I hear frustration, impatience and anger where there should be calm. The uninformed judge them as incompetent and mean or perhaps they are merely in denial that they are witnessing what’s happening within their own psyche.

I could blame my parenting on how my mother parented me. But how would that change anything? Blaming will never heal our battle scars. I forgave my mother who adopted me, but wasn’t emotionally strong enough to raise me. One day I hope my daughter will do the same.

For now, my task is to make sure that my grandchildren live their lives free of any emotional scars to pass on to their own children.

(Published first in Womenscope Newsmagazine at: )

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