Column: The Scars of November

November is in the heart of the rest between the sabbath. Whether it’s Samhain and Yule or Pomonalia and Saturnalia, the six weeks that lie between the beginning of November and the third week of December give each of us time to reflect on our current and past plans. It also allows us to answer the question of scars.

For many Americans in the United States, Tuesday marks not just a total lunar eclipse in the wee hours of the morning, but a critical election called a midterm, as it is half-way between U.S. presidential elections.

Eclipses mark times of seemingly abrupt change both internally through our emotions and externally through actions we may choose to take. I view the second of the eclipse pairs, the blood moon eclipse on Tuesday, to be a sign asking me what I am willing to release. Perhaps more truthfully, the issue would be what has been completed and needs to be left behind.

Phases of a lunar eclipse [Pixabay]

Each of us bears the symbol of life’s progress and transition through the scars we bear on our physical bodies, as well as the scars that dot our emotional, spiritual, and mental beings.

Recently, I overheard the end of a joke that made me question many things at this time of great turbulence. Between an ongoing pandemic, a hectic election season, economic inflationary woes, and the new atmosphere surrounding work in general, this is far from a normal fall season.  The joke was about someone who has died, and when they reach their destination, they are asked if they have scars. The person responds that they do not. To this person’s surprise, the next question asked is: “Why not? Was there nothing worth fighting for?”

This rest period feels different than the one three years ago, before most of us even knew or had heard of the virus that would take more than a million lives in the U.S. alone since its start in 2020. This is nearly one-sixth of the worldwide death total of over 6.5 million deaths. Even now, knowing that over 97 million cases have ravaged the US with  over 628 million cases worldwide reminds me that we are far from done.

Each of us, if we are still alive after the scourge of the COVID-19 that flailed many worldwide, has scars. We are invariably changed by our attitudes towards what we view as sacrosanct, and what we are willing to let slide.

Scars during this time may come from loved ones lost due to COVID-19 or any other disease. In medical terms, scars are the body’s natural way of healing and replacing lost or damaged skin. In emotional terms, scars are formed when we are trying to heal what we thought we had when we have lost a friend, when a situation that was certain and secure becomes unbalanced and fractured, or even when we have lost that internal sense of security that guides us through life as humans.

The traditional paths that each of us once found to be the norm in our societies from school to adulthood to relationships, work, partner choices, children, and our own ideas of success may not function post-pandemic as they did before.

During the past three years, we have had to learn to fight for what really matters to us, be it our very lives on a physical level, our lifestyles in a material sense, and our mental health overall.

It is not accident that times of crisis force us to make choices as individuals. Those choices defined what we were willing to fight for and willing to take losses for in so many ways.

I have lost friends through my choices to vaccinate and to mask. As I had two major surgeries that were six weeks apart during the pandemic, I must confess the choice was made out of pure self-preservation: no one wants to be back in a hospital if it can be avoided.

A monument in Mallorca, Spain, of a scarred face [Pixabay]

I don’t like scars, but I have to admit that this rest time reminds me to be proud of the ones I have. The emotional scars are reminders of choices to love whom I wished, when, and how – regardless of the world’s approval or disapproval.

Every time  I see friends or family or even strangers choosing to undergo scars to achieve the live they want through gender affirmation surgery, or by courageously coming out to those who matter in their lives, I cheer internally. These are the scars that are welcome because they are what helps us to remember why we are choosing to live and to be fully embracing of life in the first place.

Every time I see strangers choosing to leave a job that was killing them in favor of one that will allow them to live the life they were meant to have, I cheer.  Whether it is truly a “Great Resignation” or “quiet quitting”, it is a scar on the workforce that is healing by allowing others space to contribute in a better way to society.  This unexpected disruption caused many to re-think what a positive work-life experience should be.

The mental scars are a reminder that we are tougher than we realize. While our streaming series, television programs, and films may glamorize life with a happily ever after, most of us learn by the time we reach adolescence that there are times when things don’t quite work out perfectly. Sadly, there are far too many mental scars for so many of us in the world, hence our mental health crisis.  We have too few to manage the many children, adolescents, adults, and elderly who need care at this time.

For each step forward, such as the updated 988 hotline effective July 2022, our mental health numbers do not reflect a positive step forward. Schools, colleges, and workplaces reflect the strain. Shortages in critical areas, such as health care workers, indicate the scar that ravages our society at a time when we cannot fully heal without adequate care for each other and ourselves.

When we hit the edge, we stub a toe or give ourselves a paper cut, we see the thin line that is a scar. The early days have the hardened red ridges, and the scarred area may be sensitive or painful. Eventually, time, good self-care, and letting nature’s healing process do what it must will see the scar blend into the skin around it. The presence of the scar means that the person injured is never the same – physically, emotionally, or psychologically.

We have each endured trauma and scars through the pandemic that we might not have addressed. The total lunar eclipse reminds us to purge what is no longer needed to allow space for what needs to come.  Whether we are talking about love, politics, work spaces, life in general, our happiness, or our mental health, this cycle is about hitting our edges and reviewing our scars as we let go of what burdens us – even if we do not know it or recognize it.

The scars most dominant at this time are the internal ones. When we realize if we do nothing, then not only our lives will change, but our mental, spiritual, and emotional health suffer.

My personal scars during this time have me asking questions of my loved ones who are beyond the veil.  I have so many questions for my parents and grandparents that they cannot answer. This period of rest is where I will face the most courageous act:  to address my internal scars because I have  questions for myself that I have been afraid to answer.

It takes courage to address our scars at this time. When we do so, we can live in the moment as the best version of ourselves. We pass on lessons learned from our ancestors to those around us and our descendants. We truly will have survived, not just endured the pandemic when we rise above the scars it may have revealed. On the path to healing, we grow as individuals.

As a familiar tune reminds me, “until you’re horizontal, life ain’t a straight line”, so each of us can take this time to ask about scars. They are a reminder that somewhere along the line that we indeed found something worth fighting for. (Thanks to Robert Frost for the classic reminder regarding the road not taken.)

As we examine our own scars around this eclipse on the way to our rainbow’s end, it’s good to know that they are a reminder that somewhere along the line that we indeed found something worth fighting for.

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