It’s said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. And that every scar tells a story. But what if the story it tells is not one I’m ready for everyone to know?
When I was really young and my father was cleaning a cut I’d just gotten on my knee I remember crying in pain and shame. My leg, tragically ruined. In an effort to console me, my father told me a secret. He said that bruises and scars where great, they were badges of honor showing how hard a person played.
I think to some degree that is true. Whenever a person sees another’s scar, there is immediately a bizarre contest of sorts that quickly ensues. Back and forth the two will go, showing each other the various scars on their body and telling the tales about how they got them. Often during this conversation others will join in, rolling up their sleeves and pant legs and laughing with a strange pride.
After hearing my father saying that this proved how hard a person played I quickly became overwrought with bruises, bumps, cuts etc. I am, to this day, extremely accident prone, and I think that to, at least part of that is purposeful. I think that I’m still trying to get more and more of these “badges of honor” to show my father. And anyone else willing to look. Ask anyone who knows me, at all times I have at least one nasty bruise to show off, and I laugh victoriously about it as I tell the tale of how it came to be.
Two and a half weeks ago I had major surgery. A life altering surgery. After 3 days in the hospital and 18 staples I’m left with a scar that is eight inches long and since it’s still so new, it’s also rather dark. I’m not sure how soon it will fade and because of its precarious location, I’m not sure if it will show yet. Maybe in a bikini or in low rise jeans it will be exposed for all to see. I haven’t had the courage yet to try any of the clothes I’m worried about to see if it will show. I’m too scared to find out. I’m terrified that people will see it and wonder how I got it. And I’ll have to tell them how I got it. I had a tumor in my uterus and it had to come out. I’m not ready to be telling everyone that story. At least not face to face, in my writing it’s different.
My parents and my boyfriend were with me in the hospital. And my mother and my boyfriend sat by my side faithfully the last night I was there during my battle with the worst pain of my life. It was the first night without my morphine drip and the pain pills my doctor had ordered for me were not cutting it. The nursing staff suggested that I get up and walk around. My boyfriend lifted me out of the hospital bed, my mother held my hand. I waddled out into the hallway clenching my jaw, silent tears streaming down my face, hunched over holding my swollen belly, barely breathing through my pain. Both witnesses tell me that while I was going through that I kept saying that I was afraid of my incision opening up and that all of my insides would spill onto the floor. Quite silly now that I’m not drugged up and a little more removed from the traumatic experience.
Looking back on that whole night I realize that my fear came from so many different things in my life. I have early memories of things being taken away from me not on my terms. The emotional scars on the insides are always deeper and more permanent that the physical ones on the outside.
In confront the feelings I’m having about my surgical scar that looks up at me from my abdomen, it occurred to that the surgery was my choice. Not three years ago when the tumor was found and I was told that surgery would eventually be needed. Not four months ago when it was determined that it was time for the tumor to come out. Not two months ago when the surgery date was scheduled. Two weeks after the trauma I realized that with my doctors I decided that it was time. This dangerous foreign object needed to not be in my body. It was on my terms. I took control of the situation. And that is something to be proud of. That is a tale I should be proud to tell.
Being a spiritual person I’ve always believed that God does not give us anything we cannot handle. I think that it’s true, what does not kill you makes you stronger. Perhaps the reason we get scars is to tell stories that initially scare us. To realize what that scar has taught us. And maybe this tumor was just a test so that I could discover how strong I am and how in control of my body I am.
So, when I’m dancing at the bar and my shirt rises slightly above my pants and my scar shows, or when I’m laying on the beach and swimming in the surf and my scar peaks up above my bikini, what the world is seeing is proof of how strong I am. And that is a badge of honor I am learning to love.
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