A few months ago, I was on the beach building stone statues with a little boy whom I love very much. We spent ages building beautiful, complex AND stable structures that gained much admiration from people on the beach.

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But in a short time, it was all gone.  The waves had knocked it down and redistributed the rocks. There was no sign of our amazing statues at all, only pleasant memories in our minds.

As a student of spirituality, I know that this is what the teachings teach: experience, then let go.

But on Saturday, I was presented with another face of this same teaching, perhaps my own version. I was cleaning barnacles off the undersides of the hull of a boat with a knife. The marine life is indeed rich and there was a veritable zoo that made a home on the boat’s fibre glass surfaces. In fact, there were barnacles growing on barnacles.

I noticed the barnacles left scarring on the surface, whilst the seagrasses did not because their hold was more superficial. Just like in our hearts.  It would be unrealistic to expect deep experiences not to leave a mark on us. If something or someone we love deeply hurt us, of course there would be a scar. Otherwise, the love would not have been that deep, like the seagrasses.

But we have a choice with what we do with those scars. We can grow bitter and hate. Or we can grow better.

Those scars are reminders to us of all the good we still have in our lives. They are a call to cherish those who bring light to our lives to counteract the darkness and suffering that we have experienced.

In my personal life, I am blessed that there had been so few bad moments, but what that came my way, I try to see as lessons and strong reminders to be less impatient to my mother about her fussing, to be grateful to my partner for his solidity and to love my children fiercely. Yes, I hug them all that little bit tighter.

I lost my beloved friend Eva a few years ago, because I wasn’t there for her when she needed me, and for years afterwards, I carry the pain and guilt in my heart, as well as bitterness towards Eva’s spouse and family. And then with time, I slowly turned that pain into light and cherished my friends more. I look out for my friends more now instead of assuming that their families will look after them. There will always be a hole in my life left by Eva but I will fill it with the good I do for my friends who are still on earth.

Yes, we have to be better, rather than stuck at bitter. Be grateful for the opportunity to love, and learn from the scars when the love hurts you.