I am thinking about scars today. In the early hours when the sun peers through the screens on my tent, I have developed the habit of laying and thinking or meditating. This morning as the breeze blew off the lake and over my undressed body, my mental accounting of each part of my body (a meditative technique), turned toward the physical scars on my skin.
Each of my scars informs who I am. The most noticeable scar on my body was medically necessary if I was to remain healthy. Seven years ago I had a colectomy (my right colon was removed). I was hospitalized for nearly two weeks and did not regain full stamina for months. On painkillers in the hospital, I felt paranoia. The only person I could make myself trust — and I had to work at it — was my beloved Maggie. During the immediate recovery period, she cared for me when I could not. I learned vulnerability from this experience. My level of empathy for others facing major surgery grew following this event. Until today, I had not considered that this scar and the experience it represents is why physical health is particularly important to me. I think it relates to my joy in running. When I am well-trained, I feel strong and capable and that I do not need to be vulnerable. Apparently, I still have more to learn about being vulnerable.
, it was necessary that a portion of my colon be removed.
Though I agreed to the colectomy, I characterize that experience as chosen but under duress. Another scar represents a freely made choice. Over three decades ago after my second child’s birth, I had a vasectomy. Though I do not regret this decision, I have always had this awareness of the place on my skin that was opened to perform this simple surgery. This, too, is about a vulnerability I suppose. But like my colectomy, it is also very much about feelings of bodily invasion (read Wiped Memories and other posts). I’ve always been surprised by my subtle awareness of this scar given there is no physical sensation.
Another scar is the result of rage. As a child, I would beat on my brother. By adolescence, I had learned to avoid physical violence but was prone to angry verbal outbursts. I would hit inanimate objects to avoid harming a person. This scar came during a family argument when I was sixteen or seventeen. I swung my hand against a full drinking glass and embedded a shard of glass in my finger. The scar on my right ring finger is still sensitive.
Feelings of guilt surround this scar. Not only was I shamed for my emotional outbursts by my mother, but my sister also joined in. My mother sent me to group counseling to get me “under control,” but the anger remained my go-to reaction to stress and other challenges until my mid-forties. Finally, with a short stint with a counselor, I learned to identify and name my emotions before they manifest in angry outbursts. I still have feelings of shame for my child and adolescent rage. I wish I could have addressed my feelings of being unheard and unseen.
As I continue my journey across the continent to reset my emotional, spiritual, and physical being, I am thinking about my physical scars today and how they reflect who I am.