Tuesday, May 06, 2003
posted by Julie |
I have scars. A lot of them. They crosshatch my lower abdomen from my navel on down, tugging my belly skin in three directions, making a strange topography of my tummy. At times I've considered having them removed or at least worked on, maybe tattooing over them.
These scars remain after a series of operations that began when my appendix ruptured. I was 12 then and 17 at the time of my last surgery. There have been little laproscopic fixes since then. Glimpses revealing that the scaring inside my body is at least as impressive as that on the outside.
What I need to remember when I consider these scars is that I'm lucky to have lived past the age of 12. I should consider my scars a badge of courage, a mark of distinction. I am living on borrowed time, yanked from the fires. I dodged a bullet, cheated Death.
But I don't think that. I think mainly that I was an unlucky kid who developed appendicitis, and the cranky doctor in the tiny town didn't want to leave his warm house for surgery. So my appendix blew up. A mess. An unlucky mess.
And so, in the manner of all humans who pine for greener grasses, I've always adored tummies. Men's and women's, kids' and dogs'. I love them all. Flat or round, cut or soft, they all look great to me. I like innies and outies equally.
You could know me all your life without ever knowing about or seeing my scars. That makes me luckier than a lot of people where scarring is concerned.
When I was much younger, my scars made me interesting. Letting friends sneak peeks at my tummy gave me a certain warrior status. I'd spent months in a hospital. I might as well have spoken three languages. But then came adolescence, my teens, high school and college boyfriends. An almost lover who thought he should have been told about the scars before encountering them in the heat of passion. One who thought his tolerance made him noble. One whose own scars were more intricate and sad than my own. That one was a keeper.
I keep almost taking action to "do something" about these scars, and then doing nothing. As much as I hate them, I love them. As much as I'd love to have a pretty smooth expanse of skin below my navel, I can't imagine erasing my history. A clever tattoo wouldn't fix the strange tucks and folds of my belly, but would entertain an onlooker. Make accidental viewings easier for my fellow gym rats, more interesting for little kids in the locker room. But it might erase my map. Some part of me likes my little deformity. Some part of me feels stronger and safer for it.
Of course this leads finally to a pretty good metaphor. We have scars. Some are very old. Some are physical, but many are old inward sores. Some we'd like to eliminate, erase. But others are so much a part of us, they define our existence. We couldn't live without them.
So, a journal assignment. Pull out your journal in the next day or two and list your scars. Then pick one to explore further. What caused it? What happened? How have you lived with it? How has it made things better or worse? Made your life harder or easier? Or more interesting? What purpose does this scar serve today? Is it a public or private scar? Why? What kind of barriers does this scar establish? What kind of advantage does it give you? What conveniences? What excuses? Does the scar stop you from doing anything you'd like to do? Give you more courage? How come?
Then pick the scar you didn't want to write about, and write about that one, too.
The effort here is simply to know yourself a little better, get a better history, and then maybe like or at least accept yourself a little more than before. Don't aim for making it all better or fixing anything. Instead, consider accepting and admiring your broken and cracked bits rather than pining for perfection.
Here's to our scars, then,
An Amy Hempel Story about getting and keeping scars
This should be read in the original, not in translation
Tattoos over scars
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