"I've been through some shit" is how I casually and summarily refer to all the ugliness I've endured in my life in conversation. Abuse, absurdity, loss and insufficiency. Sometimes I think of all of it as a cumulative mass of struggle, something that I can stick a flag in and own as an obstacle I've triumphantly defeated. Other times I think of it as a gob of muck that tarnishes my otherwise unblemished and carefully planned life. Usually an open book, it gives me pause to think how I might be perceived if someone knew all the ugliness I've carried. I'm trying on for size the practice of withholding potentially alarming information about my experiences.
I vacillate on whether I allow it to define me, whether I allow it to make me jaded, bitter, cynical or otherwise "ruined." This is part decision and part observation. I like to think we have some say over the way our consciousness, as a collection of experiences and our mind, the funnel through which those experiences are sifted and fit into our understanding of our world, work together to make up our outlook. I am not simply a receiver of experience, I am a participant. On one hand, experiences should make us wiser and alter the way we relate to the world if it means we will be better off. On the other, I feel indignantly stubborn when faced with the idea that someone who abused me could have the power of changing who I am and how I exist. Fuck that, and fuck them.
With that said, we can't always control how something affects us. Soldiers are not deficient for their inability to avoid PTSD. The human ability to be resilient has it's limits. And so.. I try to observe and if I can't control it, at least be aware of the shape I take coming out on the other side of difficulty. See whether and how making it through the asteroid belt has left me dented. Lick my wounds and tend to my scars.
This is all not to say that my life has been difficult as a whole. I have a wonderful life and I've surrounded myself with extraordinary people. There have just also been a multitude of exceptionally difficult moments. Character shaping, moral defining, lesson teaching moments. And so far, I've survived each and every one.