What's That Word?
My tenth grade English teacher, Mr. Shank, used to describe my writing as “loquacious.” I think also, “verbose.” I always thanked him for the compliment, even though it was intended as gentle constructive guidance. See, I’d recently discovered the saint Thesaurus, and consulted them often. Though we speak less now, I recently reached out when looking for alternatives to the word “scar.” I was dumbfounded. The offerings were paltry: Defect. Flaw. Disfigurement. Which I pretty much think is bullshit.
I began writing this piece about a scar of mine that I’ve been looking to erase. I wasn’t trying to rationalize my vanity, or, okay, not entirely. But even though it’s something I’d like to disappear, I’d never describe it as a defect in me, nor a flaw, nor a disfigurement. It’s a mark of my survival.
My face is not without it’s battle wounds. It’s been on this earth for over 30 years (shh), and has loved, loved being out in the sun. It’s got freckles, which are endearing, and oddly-shaped splotches, which are less so. All in all, fairly inoffensive marks. Except for that one damned spot. I’ve tried every cream, serum, peel, scrub, laser, intergalactic facial, but to no avail. It remains. Staring back at me. I haven’t been wearing make up lately (why waste product?) so when I do, it feels novel, grown up… and like more of a muddy mask than it ever has before. I’d always rather skip it, but that scar is so distracting. Bare, it draws the eyes like a magnet, and I’m tired of talking about it, even if it’s just to myself. Plus, it takes so much time to disguise. Enter my vanity. Why can’t I be content despite the mark? Am I equating my worthiness with the clarity of my skin? Why don’t I do something more worthwhile with my time and money? And, aren’t I a feminist? Why does it bother me SO much?
I associate that defect/flaw/disfigurement with a traumatic event from over fifteen years ago. One that I avoided dealing with for a long time as means of coping, and in some ways, I’m glad I did. When Pandora’s Box finally opened, I was older and “wiser,” and I was still rendered non-functioning in many ways. Distracted and distressed, I was reliving what I never wanted to live through in the first place. I forgot shifts at work. I lost my car on more than one occasion, not that I should have been driving in the first place. Once it was towed because I’d amazingly parked directly in front of a driveway. To say it felt out of body would be an understatement.
Healing took a longer road than I wanted. It was twisted and uglier than I wanted it to be, it felt circuitous. The wound served as the physical manifestation of my emotional healing process. Over this course of time I have cried, raged, gotten drunk, written stories, made jokes fit only for the gallows, and stumbled my way towards forgiveness of many things, including myself. I’ve laughed more hours than I can count. I haven’t lost my car in a long time. I have made it to the other side of the mountain… and have the scar to prove it. “Clever parting gift,” I’d often think, bitterly.
It’s worth noting that in the darkest moments of this journey, when I was most fragile and self-destructive, no one ever turned away from me or said I was too much, even when I knew for a fact I was very much too much. Instead, they said, “We recognize you’re in pain. How can we help?” These kindnesses changed my view of humanity forever. They chipped a great deal away from my propensity to judge others in an effort to protect my tender self, by keeping me separate from them. Because that’s what judgement does. It keeps us separate.
I am not defective because of what I went through. I am not flawed. And my human-ness is not disfigured. I certainly felt that way for a while. Part of healing was coming to understand how bullshit those thoughts well and truly were.
We all have scars, visible or not. Perhaps, like mine, they’ve come to attention during this time. A break in our normal distractions will always allow memories, traumas, shadows, old arguments never resolved to rise to the surface, disrupting the otherwise (seemingly) serene waters. They grow like black mold in the recesses of our hearts. Ridding ourselves of that mold is neither easy nor comfortable. It requires us to bend and contort, scrub with more force that we’ve strength to muster and for longer than we thought humanly possible. And yet… Perhaps the scars appear to prove that it is.
I looked up the antonyms for “scar” with trepidation, but was met with a friendship offering instead: Reconstruct. Rebuild. Repair. Restore. Regenerate. Closer, but still not quite on the mark, no pun intended. While the idea of RE-pairing or RE-generation is lovely and smells like spring jasmine and fresh grass, I’m not interested in returning to who I was before. I like this new broad who speaks her mind and laughs without censoring how loud or appropriate it is. I’m proud of her. I’m not regenerating, I’ve simply arrived at a completely new phase of just generating; no one says I have to look or behave the way I did before. At least no one that I care to speak to.
This scar is not the way I would chosen to commemorate this odyssey. I’m frustrated I wasn’t consulted in the design. I wish I could say that I’ve come to peace with it. That I’m so evolved that I’ll start baring my naked skin with a circle drawn around it, and dust it with glitter so as to immediately draw the eye. Nah. While I will fully support someone else making that decision, this journey has given me completely ownership over it and my body, and as such, I’m still looking to fade the damn spot into relative non-existence, along with the memories it conjures. Don’t worry, I’ll still take with me the courage, compassion, humility and gratitude I met along this yellow brick road. Gifts such as these don’t need to be emblemized. I see them every day in the strength of my step, in the intimacy of my relationships, and yes, the amplitude of my laughter, all for which I will never again apologize. Mine were always too verbose, anyway.