Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Scarred for life

The beautiful, talented, and ridiculously inspirational Andrea Scher wrote a piece recently that got me thinking about my beauty and my scars.

When I step out of my shower, I stand directly in front of the mirror over my husband's sink. There is no way to avoid it. Out I step and there it is. There I am. Bare.

And there they are - all my scars and marks.

Scars on my neck from when I had shingles in the 7th grade. The memories of the pain from that dreadful disease still make me shudder. It started off with a small blister at the base of my throat. I thought I had caught a zipper on my skin and bruised it. I am clumsy that way. But that blister became more blisters and they crept up the left side of my neck in front of and behind my left ear, and on into my hairline. There is still numbness on my neck and behind my ear because of that run-in with shingles. I never had the chicken pox, mind you, but at the tender age of 12, I was stricken with an illness normally associated with far older people. I used to wear turtlenecks as often as possible in order to cover those scars. One of the reasons I loved my locs so much was the fact that they covered those scars on my neck.

Stretchmarks on my lower abs and the top of my buttocks. Those shiny, thin lines remind me of the wonder of pregnancy, that time of growth and expansion when new life and new souls were being formed deep within me. Kristiana decided to stay in my womb 15 extra days - yes, her pregnancy lasted 42 weeks. When she was born, she looked like she had been sitting in a warm tub for... 42 weeks. Wrinkled fingertips and toes, long, soft fingernails, and lots of hair. Daniel was born on his due date, but the damage had already been done. No, let me rephrase that - the miracle had already happened. New life had been ushered into the universe through the portal of my womb, and my belly, hips, and backside would never let me forget it.

A small scar on the bottom of my belly button. As much as I loved being pregnant and adore my children, not long after I gave birth to Kristiana, Steve and I decided that we would have only one more child. Less than two years after Daniel was born, I had my tubes tied via laproscopic surgery through the base of my belly button. Snipped and cauterized, my fallopian tubes lost their ability to deliver ripe eggs into my uterus. Even though I am clear about the rightness of our choice for our family, there are times when I have wondered what additional children would look like and be like. At the same time, I recognize that if we had had more children, I would not be able to go out in the evenings, hang out with friends, or travel as much as I do now. Two children have been more than enough for us to handle.

Scars on my knees and elbows from many falls from bikes, down flights of stairs, and while running and playing in childhood and adulthood. Like I said, I am clumsy like that. I used to be ashamed of how often I tripped and fell, but now I realize that I fall because I am in motion. I fall because I am moving forward. I fall because I want to get to the next place, the next experience, and the next person I need to see and spend time with.

Scars on my chest and abdomen from the surgeries I underwent last year.
No more boobs. No more periods. No more kanswer.
Thanks be to God.

I had the opportunity to have reconstruction after my bilateral mastectomy. I was told that I am young and have many years ahead of me, years in which having breasts would make me feel better about myself and more normal after the horror of dealing with breast kanswer.
I see many commercials and ads for products that reduce the appearance of scars.
I have seen ads for plastic surgeons that promise complete scar removal.

No, thank you. No fake boobs. No harsh creams. No surgery to cover up other surgery.
This body of mine is the canvas on which the story of my life is being written and etched.
This is my body, blessed and broken, shared and loved.
I am not ashamed of a single mark, scar, or wrinkle.
Every single one reminds me of a battle valiantly fought and a victory gratefully won.
This is my body - scarred for life.


Addendum - Here is another piece talking about beauty and strength and being a woman in her 40s. There is so much to celebrate. So much to honor about ourselves and our stories and our scars. We have nothing to fear and nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing at all.

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