I have them all over my body, inside and out. Many are not of my own choosing while others are both inadvertently and purposely self-inflicted. The scalpel marks on my back, the thin almost invisible cuts on my forearms from the Agency days, the Baghdad map tattoo on my right shoulder (thanks Poohki, Matt Ward), the Sak Yant on my back (among many), the emotional scars from war in Iraq and Afghanistan, that little boy in Darfur, the memories of . . . well, too much. Even the losses in courtrooms and just plain life in general . . .
For a while, I carried them likes stones in a rucksack. Each weighed me down a little bit more, slowing my forward progress and limiting my agility and even ability. They were a burden but they were my burden. I seemed incapable of unpacking them. Hell, I didn't seem to want to but had no particular idea what to do with them. The bastards were mine, I’d earned them and I'd be damned if I'd let anybody tell me how to handle them.
I'm not quite sure when it happened; when I all of a sudden realized that each of these scars wasn't just a burden but rather a gift, a small kernel of wisdom wrapped in pain that just needed to be ripped open like a Christmas present by an eight year old boy hoping for that Daisy BB gun he saw in the Sears catalog. But, without question, they were more than just dead weight.
What eventually occurred to me was that each was critical. Each expanded my myopic view and allowed me to see, experience and contribute that much more. They created empathy and understanding and believe it or not, a strange fearlessness. Those were the gifts.
So what are they, these scars, these gifts? For me at least, they are the physical and mental representations that I did something, went somewhere, survived something despite the odds that I shouldn't, couldn't. For me, they are the very physical manifestation of every step I have taken, of every jungle, desert, battlefield, courtroom, hope, joy, nightmare, poppy field, in which I have tread.
Most of all, I have come to realize that the scars have all laced together into, well, me. Each may still be a stone of sorts but they weave together in such a way that any one of them would be missed when I inadvertently see myself in the mirror. Each is mine. Each is precious. Each is . . . me.
But isn't this true for all of us? After all, who are we? What do we do? What do we stand for? What do we believe in? What do we fight for? Further, I'd argue that if you haven't been knocked down, stepped on and kicked in the crotch because of what you have done or even what you believe, you may not have ever done much or thought much. So, if you are a fighter, you have em. Its who you are. Its what you do. Its what you stand up for. Its what you believe. It is you! And those scars are yours too! And that's okay. In fact, its pretty fucking incredible.
So, I want em. I need em. I even like em, like how they have formed me, reformed me, changed me, made me and continue to do so. In fact, there is room for more. And I know I'm not alone. Its not whether we have em. Its what we do with em.