Well, they don't feel that way at the time, but most medicines need time to work and most lessons have to swish around in our heads for a while before we will relent to learn them.
I am a clumsy person. I know, hard to believe, but it is so, so true. I trip over shadows, and even a deep thought is heavy enough to tip me off my balance. I run into tables so often that I'm looking into purchasing inflatable furniture. It is fair to say that I have earned more than my fair share of bumps and bruises throughout my life, and yet I have appreciation for every one of them.
What can we learn from a bruise?
|I learned that I should not pick up boxes bigger than me.|
This is a True Thing (and True Things are rarely only literal).
How many times in your life did something come along and get in your way at the exactly wrong time? Maybe you didn't even see it before you slammed into it, and it was not so much the pain that shook you all over like a plucked string, but more the shock of it. Maybe it made you angry. It makes me angry. I don't like those kind of surprises. Maybe you belt out a few words too salty for church. Maybe you do what I do and scrunch up your nose and bite your lip to keep them inside where you can repeat them over and over without drawing attention to yourself.
Second, we learn that there is a weird, sick allure to poking a bruise every so often, just to see if it still hurts. It always does, but after a while, we check it out again, just to see. Just to see.
It is a weird facet of human behavior that we abhor pain, and yet we are drawn to it in its various forms just to make sure that we can still feel it. Sometimes I really like it when I'm numb. Things that usually get me unraveled roll off my back like candle wax. Then, after a while, I start to wonder why. I start to miss feeling things and that's when I start looking for the emotional bruise. It is there, every single time. I poke it and prod it a bit and get it good and sore. It is how I know there is damage there and that I have to work around it. It is unpleasant, but sometimes it takes a drop of pain to remind me that being alive and living are two different things, and living is always far superior.
Third, bruises heal. Sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes there are even scars, but eventually you will look down and that sore spot will only be the memory of a sore spot. Sometimes, even that memory will fade itself away, too.
I have a bruise on my shin right now that I earned back in December of last year. I took a tumble down a flight of stairs trying to get some distance between myself and a grabby fellow in a bad neighborhood when I was assisting a client with a move. I sprained my ankle as well, but it healed fairly quickly compared to this darn bruise. It has been sitting there in all its green-purple smugness for almost half a year, but it is fading slowly. Too slowly to suit me, but it is doing what it is supposed to do and healing itself even though I can't see the progress it has made from day to day. Eventually, I will look down and it will be gone.
I'm not saying I'll remember this bruise forever, and its healing isn't going to change my life--well, it will be a lot easier to shave my legs, but still. It was a part of my person for a long time, long enough that if you were to meet me for the first time, I could legitimately introduce myself thusly: "Hi, I'm Marisa and I have an ugly bruise on my leg that won't go away."
Eventually, it will be, "Hi, I'm Marisa and I used to have an ugly bruise on my leg that wouldn't go away. Well, it wouldn't until it did, but still, it was weird. I promise! It was thiiiiiiiis big!"
Given enough time, I'll get tired of people crooking their eyebrows at me when I try to tell them about my stupid everlasting bruise, and I'll stop telling it. Then I'll forget about it altogether.
What I won't forget is what I learned that night. There is a special kind of panic when you are in a neighborhood at night where you know aren't welcome and there is a person touching your body who should not be and you are two flights of stairs from your car--and then you go down with your ankle twisted behind you and your leg slams against the chewed-up concrete and steel. You aren't sure if you are going to be able to walk when you get up, but you know that you are going walk anyway and nobody is going to stop you. That is exactly what I did. I hopped up and hoofed it to my car like nothing had happened and I drove a good ten miles on that sprained ankle before I stopped to lick my wounds.
I don't need the bruise to remind me anymore. I don't need the pain to keep me taught. I got the message, and I still have the message. The pain goes away, the message stays. That bruise paid for itself up front and in full.
Are there bruises in your own life that taught you something you needed to learn? Did they heal fast or slow? How about your characters? Give them a few bumps and bruises. It will make them human like the rest of us. Give them something to take home with them after the action and it is guaranteed that they will be changed.