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Marina Gomberg: What our scars can teach us and others if we let them

Marina Gomberg has a growing reverence for these signs of our resilience.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marina Gomberg.

I rollerbladed through my friend’s sunroom when I was 9 and got a pretty gnarly cut on the inside of my wrist. Velocity and inertia aren’t standard fourth grade lessons, but I got an early and literally hands-on demonstration.

Because of how the urgent care doctor had to sew it up, the scar looked like an amply-legged bug, and honestly I thought it was pretty boss. I remember being bummed at just how effective the vitamin E oil was at masking its prevalence, the record of my triumphant feat.

I came to learn that there’s actually a whole sector of the beauty industry devoted to eliminating the visibility of scars when I took a hockey stick to the face a couple of years later. I was a bit more keen on the idea of hiding the evidence then.

But it’s recently occurred to me how wild it is that we classify the remnants of our resilience as blemishes — like perseverance is something to hide.

I appreciate that the vestiges of our pain are complex, and that when things more severe than playdate-gone-awry cause them, they can be uncomfortable to see all the time.

I honor how others want to live with their scars, and I think I’m going to shift my perspective to see them with a bit more reverence.

Scars, it seems, can be evidence of our increased capacity to empathize. They’re indications that we, too, have experienced hurt, and they leave us simultaneously tougher and softer. Harder to injure but smoother to the touch.

It reminds me of our society’s complicated relationship with age. Wisdom and experience? Awesome. Looking like you’re old enough to have earned them? Not so much.

We go gaga for youth and the appearance of having never been dealt a blow, been stretched, taken some heat or been crushed under immense pressure. It’s true of our skin, it’s true of our hair and it’s true of our psyches, because our injuries aren’t always on the outside.

Smile more, they say. Cheer up.

Well, sometimes I don’t wanna. In fact, sometimes I can’t. I’m mending; come back later.

Those with their own scars, though, seem to understand. I like that they often don’t expect me to pack up and leave Camp Sad on account of their own discomfort as a witness.

Instead, they might unfold a chair and pass the makings for s’mores, because they know the only way out of the muck is through it — and that it’s best traversed with a buddy and some snacks.

I don’t mean to suggest that all trauma makes people compassionate or that everyone should feel comfortable constantly remembering or revealing their mementos of anguish. I have just come to appreciate the depth derived from having seen strife and survived it.

Maybe it’s a trust for the process or maybe it’s a trust in the person. Either way, it seems like grief doesn’t intimidate those who themselves have turned pain into power.

And what a gift. Because for as many of us who carry marks of the past, there are those who might benefit from the reminder of our ability to heal.

Marina Gomberg is a professional communicator, a practicing optimist and a lover of love. She lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.

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