How I learned to love my scars

In case you haven't guessed by now, I grew up in the country. And if you have ever walked beside me you know that I'm not exactly graceful. I can fall down while sitting. It's a talent my mother and niece have as well. Life was especially trippy when I was going through growth spurts. In my family we tend to gain a lot of chub before shooting up 3-12 inches in a day.

As a child that led to a lot of accidents. All of a sudden my feet weren't coming down where they should. My elbows would connect with door frames and spin me around. I would hit my head on things I had ducked under my entire life. One brilliant afternoon, long story short, I ended up with a deep puncture wound from a cow skull, a twisted ankle, and a large chunk torn out of my leg just below the knee. My mother was not happy about any of that, or my missing shoe, or the chunk of flesh I handed her. (I thought maybe the doctor would be able to sew it back in. I was young! Don't laugh.)

As a teenager my sudden growth spurts led to a lot of stretch marks. I developed breasts overnight and years later I developed hips the same way. The burning pain from that sudden change made it very hard to walk. My legs ached, my knees hurt, and I couldn't keep my gravity centered and would trip or fall easily. Shortly after that I grew another 3 inches as well. Which led to a really bad day. In one act I smashed my thumb open with a hammer, sliced my hand on a nail, turned, tripped and twisted my knee, slammed my throat onto a stair tread, bit the tip of my tongue off, and impaled my chest on a hidden piece of rusty rebar stuck in the ground. I could barely breathe, and couldn't say anything because both my tongue and throat were so damaged. Instead I pushed myself up off the ground with two bloody hands, dragging the rough ridges of the rebar over my ribs, spit out blood and a chunk of flesh, and could barely stand on my messed up knee as blood started pouring out of my chest wound.

My poor parents knew I needed a doctor, I couldn't stop spitting blood or coughing, but they weren't sure if it would be best to call an ambulance (which could take longer but would bring oxygen) or drive me in because I had already soaked through my shirt and two hand towels. Not being able to speak, I didn't have much say on the matter. So I tried to wash the blood out of my shirt instead. It was my first silk shirt and I hoped it was salvageable. The blood came out but the hole left in it was too large. I started crying over my ruined blouse. Mom stopped me. Dad shook his head. They grabbed some extra towels to staunch the blood and pushed me in the car. I got all checked out, a booster shot for tetanus and all kinds of other things happened I barely remember due to my concussion. Not my first, and certainly not my last. I do remember them pulling the loose, broken shard of my rib out of my body though. And the nurses making stupid comments about me not currently wearing a bra. It had also been ripped apart by the rebar and they were actually pulling pieces of it out of my wound. But I wasn't wearing one when I went to the ER. And that scandalized the nurses, who had asked me to remove my bra anyway. And the x-ray tech who told me I would have to take my bra off for the x-rays. I was still bleeding quite a bit, and they were all freaked out that I wasn't wearing a bra on top of the gaping hole in my chest. I could see my ribs, they could see my ribs, but it was me going braless that freaked them out. They were all so flustered that they never stitched me up. I got a gauze pad and tape, and was told I was done. It wasn't until the next day when I changed the dressing that I noticed this and brought it up with my mother. She scheduled a visit with my primary but there wasn't much to be done by then. So it healed horribly.

Now you might think this is a particularly gruesome story. And it is. But it's MY story. And every time someone new, or one of my more forgetful friends, sees my giant gnarled scar I get to tell that story. And explain how an underwire bra saved my klutzy life.

And every time someone sees the scar on my right leg I get to tell them how even when you are running from men with guns you should still be careful of the barbwire fence.

And when they see the scar on my right leg I get to tell them how my first Girl Scout troop in Bowling Green KY heard that I was moving so they all pitched in and got me a doll and I was so happy I skipped out into the parking lot and tripped. The gravel tore up my knee real bad but my face and chest landed on the doll and it protected me.

And when they see the thick straight scar on my right hand I can tell them the story of my friend's brother that was on the wrong meds as a teenager and he stabbed me in the hand with a paring knife because I made him stop abusing his mom.

My life adventures have written story blurbs on my flesh, in white, purple, and tan. You can't see all of them very well. The scar above my right eye that taught me that even the nicest dog will bite is so old and faded even I barely remember it is there. And the dart that pierced my cheek and pricked my tongue healed so small and well that it didn't leave a scar on the outside of my face. But I still know to be careful with dogs and I still know how fun it is to blow air out of your cheek with your mouth closed.

I have scars on my face, on my shoulders, on my arms, my breasts, my hands, my chest, my back, my butt, my legs, my vagina, my feet and more than a few on my soul.

Growing up, I kept getting told that I should be more careful. Because the scars would make me ugly. And I would hate them as I got older.

I was a tomboy so I didn't care if I was ugly or pretty. But when I was a teen, after the hole in my chest started to heal into a lumpy scar and the stretch marks on my hips shone a bright white, I started to wonder if I should care.

Did they make me ugly?

I stared at myself in the mirror. I stared at my legs. I stared at my arms. I constantly checked the scar under my left breast to see how bad it would be. And it wasn't until I was almost completely healed and I saw that it was going to be a huge nasty scar that I realized the truth of it all. I didn't care.

I didn't care about the giant scars on my legs. I didn't care about the thin scars on my back. I didn't care about the white marks on my arms. Or any of the rest of it.

If people thought that I was ugly because of the life I had led, the life that was writ into my flesh, how could they think that I, the person inside that flesh, was pretty? Because I had been through all of those things and the memories wouldn't be erased even after the scars faded.

And that's when I fell in love with my scars. They were my story, my life, my warning, and my litmus test. If you can't handle the scars, you can't handle the real me. And the people that love me and have stayed with my all these years, they see the scars fade away too. And the new scars, and the new stories, get formed.