"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Sunday, March 13, 2016

hurt in this world.

Now Playing: Not About Angels by Birdy (we know full well there's just time, so is it wrong to dance this line?)

I actually really love living alone. I'm strange and weird and kind of neurotic and I'm a big fan of casual nudity and odd sleeping hours, so living alone suits me.

What I'm not loving so much is the silence.

Fortunately, I have unlimited internet, and a phone that requires its own CPR machine to stay functioning (it turns out when your PC fucks itself and takes your iTunes down with it, switching phones is quite a challenge) but can be propped up almost anywhere and rigged to my trusty bluetooth speaker, so I've been watching a looot of YouTube; when I'm doing laundry, when I'm doing dishes, when I'm attempting to fix dinner...in the shower (sandwich bag tied to a coat hanger, ladies. Instant aquatic entertainment). I've always watched a lot of YouTube; I'm a huge fan of online video, even more so given that the TV that came with my room is apparently for ornamental purposes only. And so, even though I'm alone, in my room, too poor to indulge my love of DFTBA merchandise, I feel more connected to my beloved nerdfighter community than ever.

But I do disagree with John Green on one small thing.

In my favourite John Green book, The Fault in Our Stars, Augustus Waters says 'you don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world. But you do have some say in who hurts you.' And I absolutely don't agree with that.

When I was in high school I visited the chaplain a lot; I wasn't Christian, but I was depressed, and so we had a shared goal in seeking a higher power. And she used to warn me against my casual habit of falling hard and fast for shitty, smelly teenage boys - she told me that we're like pieces of paper, and when you stick together and then try to pull apart, the paper rips and you leave some part of you behind.

My chaplain was a lovely lady, but that's crazy.

When I was fourteen I had my third heart surgery; it was the most minor of all my surgeries to date, just a 45 minute procedure to replace my pacemaker, but it was the most traumatic, given that I was old enough to understand and comprehend and be genuinely afraid. A few days after the surgery, I was at home. My head was swimming with drugs and I'd lost a lot of weight, but I was so bloated that my belly swelled out in front of me like some monstrous pregnancy. The muscles in my chest and stomach had been cut so I couldn't stand properly, so I limped around like a crochety old lady. I was in a lot of pain and I smelled of blood and sweat and piss and I just wasn't feeling my best.

There was a sticker over my surgical cut - people think of surgical scars as neat, tidy incisions but in the days after surgery they're just a mess of congealed blood and pus. I slowly pulled the sticker off, ripping off some skin and hair. I'd never felt quite as bad as then; the trauma and stress of hospital, even routine management of a congenital condition that sucks, but does leave you relatively able-bodied, does weird things to your body and brain and the relationship between the two. I thought of how much my body had been manipulated and played around, and how I had literally no say in the matter - for children's surgeries children have absolutely no say in what happens to them, but fourteen is a little old to be considered fully a child. It was pain and suffering I just had to endure - not because it was part of being human, but because it was part of being me.

And then I healed. You watch your body go through trauma and then you watch it heal again; not entirely, but a scar means that the hurt is over. And then, in locker rooms and at the beach and in bedrooms, I watched as people took in my scars, smile, and say that I was beautiful. I try not to make a habit of extracting my worth from the opinions of others, but it was just evidence that you can move on from being the fourteen year old who was flayed on an operating table, and you can move on from being a...piece of paper who had ripped and left half of itself on another piece of paper.

But you don't have any say in the matter. Pain is as inevitable as life or death or taxes. I think it's natural to want to assert some autonomy over the cruel inevitability of the universe, especially when you're young or sick or afraid, but in my experience, pain and the people who inflict it don't particularly care about you or your opinions. But that's not the part that matters. The part that matters is that you move on, from broken to healed, from victim to survivor. You may not have had any say in the people or circumstances that caused you pain, but you also have people and circumstances that can help you rise above it. We are not weak for our demons, and we certainly can't pick and choose them. But we are brave for overcoming them, for knowing that the only way out is through.

Okay? Okay.

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