There’s a time in my life for which I should be very grateful. That’s what the doctors have told me every time they’ve heard the story and every time they’ve seen my scars. One doctor even said, had the accident happened 15 years earlier, I would be missing a leg for sure.
But I am old enough to know that what should be and what is are often very different.
When I first met my husband, I hid myself. He didn’t know what was beneath the clothes or behind the girl. Because it was a new relationship, in every moment I was reborn. I got to recreate myself in his eyes and through his eyes, I saw that I was pleasing.
As we strung the days we spent together into a happy little fantasy, there came the time he brought me home after a date and we were kissing on my couch. I had rehearsed the line in my head all day. Maybe even the day before, anticipating it’s inevitable arrival. As I felt his hands start to move beneath my shirt, I knew the moment had come. Instead of excitement, I felt dread. I stopped kissing and moved my head back a few inches, preparing to say the line. “Are you ok?” he asked.
“I have some scars,” I whispered, and waited into the moment. Preparing for rejection, a tentative drop of his hands and the space growing larger between our bodies. He didn’t say anything. I felt shame course through my heart. I felt his fingers lift my face and a wonder at the laugh I heard him make. “Um, yeah,” he said. “I figured you’d have some scars.”
Five years before that night, I had been in a motorcycle accident. It left me in the hospital for almost two months. I flat-lined twice and the doctors had told my parents to say goodbye because I wouldn’t survive the night. I had lost 90% of my blood, draining the hospital of its A+ blood supply through transfusion. I had a compound fracture in my left leg, a broken wrist and three broken ribs that had punctured my lungs, my heart and my liver. As a result, I also had a tracheotomy.
The tracheotomy scars were easy to fix. A plastic surgeon just snipped out the scar tissue and glued my skin together. You can’t tell it was there.
My insides healed too. But I was left with a wide, angry white scar down the middle of my torso from being held open by a surgical retractor.
It divided me like a playing field, each side populated by opposing asymmetrical circles, like little players ready to charge each other. The plastic surgeon was worried that if he tried to make it look prettier by cutting the scar tissue out and reattaching it, I wouldn’t have enough skin left to have healthy kids. He was afraid it wouldn’t stretch enough and their little brains wouldn’t have enough room to grow. So even before motherhood, I was making sacrifices for the kids.
So, instead of prancing the Earth, throwing fairy dust into the air from the gratitude I felt for not only surviving this accident but also managing to thrive afterwards, I was instead engulfed in feelings of remorse and nostalgia for the times I was able to walk around in shorts, worry free (because now I also had two vicious round scars on my calf and shin from the bones popping out + a white stripe on my thigh from the skin they had to peel off to cover that mess). And I was never going to wear a bikini, I decided. No way was I going to expose my ugly middle to a world of judgmental, media scarred people. No way. It didn’t matter if I worked out all the time to look my best, a tankini was the closest I’d ever come to barring my body.
And that’s just how it’s been all these years. But for all the negativity that surrounds getting older, there are some rarely talked about benefits. For one, I’m not as hard on myself. Not every thing I do or every way I look is a direct reflection of who I am.
I love too many things about myself to keep letting myself get dragged down by trying to be the person I think everyone wants me to be, instead of discovering and embracing the unique person I am.
So fast forward 10 years to the boyfriend who is now a husband who tells me, when it comes up, that he doesn’t even see my scars.
This now husband and I have three children we’re raising and friends we love so much, we want to travel with them and so we do.
We went to Club Med this past summer for our annual big trip.
And on this trip I have decided I no longer want to hide myself from the world. I am going to throw myself open and let the world do what it wants.
I have too many other things to be grateful for to worry about getting the seal of approval from strangers.
And you know what? No one looked twice. And what did my family think?