I’m a goddamned diamond

a diamond
A real 2.2 carat diamond. Source: Flickr.com; some rights reserved.

I have been blogging and talking online more lately about some hard parts of my childhood, particularly my violated boundaries and my difficult relationship with my mother.

I’ve also thought about something my therapist said after I’d been seeing him for a while. It was something like, “I just imagine how successful and strong you would have been without the mother and the childhood you had.” He said it with a shake of his head, regretfully, as if I can never reach the peaks I would have had, if raised in a different environment.

Perhaps. But it’s one of the few times that I’ve seen things differently from him. I think I’m who I am because of it. No, I’m not “grateful” for all aspects of my life. Life is random. Awful shit happens. Other people are terrible. We fail ourselves. And I am not discounting that I have always had resiliency and bravery. I’m strong to begin with.

You know the saying: The same fire that melts butter hardens steel. It helps to have something strong to work with in the first place.

But I get how suffering, pain, anger and recovery have built up my inner strength. When you repeatedly stress something that is self-healing — like a living bone — it gets stronger for the next time, both to repair the damage and to prepare for when it’s again under pressure.

I’m a tooth grinder, and I’ve had problems cracking my teeth because of it all my life. I was middle-aged and just being introduced to dental splints to protect my teeth during sleep when a dentist casually told me that my upper and lower jawbones had thickened over time because of all the pressure I put on them with my grinding. (He was having to use his office’s largest dental tray to take an impression of my teeth so the top of the tray wasn’t too narrow and didn’t grind into my gums. It felt like he was stuffing a horse trough in my mouth.) Dont’ get me wrong: I don’t look like a Neanderthal with a bulging jaw. You only see this if you’re up-close-and-personal with my gums. But this is real physical evidence to me that pressure can make things stronger.

It’s the same way with the pressures of my life on the intangible me. When life has borne down on me, I’ve gotten tougher and — with time and growth — better able to cope in the future.

Diamonds are strong, but they are just carbon, like the soot on a burned match. You can brush it off with a fingertip. The difference is that diamonds are crystallized carbon after it has endured extreme heat and pressure and organized itself accordingly. The atoms bond in a lattice structure, with each atom sharing electrons with four other carbon atoms, and that is what makes diamonds so hard. Compare that to brittle, flimsy graphite (pencil lead), which has carbon atoms that link in rings, with each atom only linked to one other atom.

I built up my internal lattice and all the mental connections I needed over many years to withstand my life.

I’m a fucking diamond.

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