You Need More Scars

It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars.
— Garrison Keillor, radio host and author

I'm one of those weirdos who tends to ruin a party atmosphere by turning the conversation onto a serious topic. You know what I'm talking about. One minute you're having a good time laughing about something ridiculous that you all saw on Snapchat and the next minute you're reminded of the genocides in Rwanda. "THANKS, MJ."

The thing that makes people like me weird is that we don't always feel depressed when we talk about depressing topics. Sometimes we enjoy talking about these things. Not because we're sick, morbid, sad people, but because talking about certain upsetting topics brings catharsis, understanding, and healing. Have you ever been at a party engaged in deep, serious discussion about something unpleasant and felt like you just connected on a profound level or unveiled a great truth about the universe? Then maybe you know what I'm talking about.

I love meeting people who feel comfortable moving beyond casual small-talk, people who hunger for this kind of meaningful discussion. I especially like meeting people who can talk about serious, sensitive subjects with a sense of humor and empathy. Those folks can sometimes be hard to find, so when you do find them, you should keep them close.

My buddy Jared, who plays in a band with me, is one of those people, and this shows up in our musical collaborations. When I write music, my lyrics are often dark -- and I mean blackout on a moonless night in a black hole dark. But the tunes I write aren't necessarily dark, and the feeling the song is meant to evoke is usually a slightly nuanced mix of emotions. Jared takes it and creates an upbeat arrangement for the music that conveys the lyrics in an pleasing, not depressing, way.

For example, I wrote this song entitled "Scars" about four years ago. I had just gone through a lot of changes in my life, and not all them were altogether good and easy. I'd moved to a difference city, ended a relationship, changed jobs, et cetera -- you know, typical twenty-something angst-inducing life changes. Then one day I briskly left my apartment and opened the door by pushing on the window of the swinging door to my building, breaking the antique window. Long fingers of sharp glass gouged my arm as momentum carried me through the jagged hole until the impact of my forehead on the side of the door brought me to a sharp, dizzying halt. At first I stumbled on in a stupid daze, then realized what happened when I saw blood pouring down my forehead and forearm.  In the emergency room, they glued my head together and plucked glass splinters from my hand and elbow. Eventually my head healed into a pink Harry Potter-like scar, and then faded to an almost invisible wrinkle-like line. In the weeks that followed, I pondered my scars, both visible and invisible, and wrote these lyrics.

I hate to admit it but I think I deserved this
I’m wearing my scars like girl scout badges
I don’t like to say it but I know I earned this
Each little mark a letter of scarlet
It hurt at the time
but I had it coming
and it hurt in my mind
but I’m finally learning
I made up some reasons But what does it matter
We're already done and you’re not listening
A new day, new season they say we start over
Some fade fast, some last longer
It hurt at the time
but I had it coming
and it hurt in my mind
but I’m finally learning
It's a double-edged sword that slashed us both
and a double-tight knot at the end of the rope
Words cut deep and deeds burn it up
Cauterize it close it call the chapter shut
It hurt at the time
but I had it coming
and it hurt in my mind
but I’m finally learning

My GOODNESS, but aren't those lyrics depressing???

Well, I guess they are, kinda. But that depends on your interpretation.

When I was a little girl, I used to ask my mother to tell me stories about how she got the few little scars I found on her arms and legs. She told me stories on bike rides gone awry, and horses who spooked. Her tales fascinated me, and they taught me to see scars as signs that someone has stories to tell.

When I hit my head and developed an ugly red scar in the middle of my forehead, I mourned. I liked my face the way it was, and I didn't want an ugly mark on it. But the longer I had it -- and the more it faded -- the more I see the scar as a sign that I've lived. Yeah, I got it doing something stupid (never press on a pane of glass like that, ya moron), but I got it DOING something. I wasn't safe and sound in my bedroom watching Friends reruns. I was moving, living, making my life happen.

So yeah, it hurt at the time, but I had it coming, and now I'm finally learning from it. You get me? I think you do. So go out there, take risks, earn some scars, and let me know how it goes.