Every once in a while I think of that Goo Goo Dolls song, ‘Name’, which has the line “Scars are souvenirs you never lose The past is never far.” It brings to mind superficial scars, like the crescent shaped scar on my forearm, where our dog Tasha bit me when I tried to take a chicken bone from her. It usually takes a moment or two of deeper thinking before I remember how many scars I have.
Many years ago, I went on a canoe trip with my church group. Our group was small and most of us had known each other since we were very young. That particular time there was a new guy. We got to know each other a little that weekend and then kept in touch afterwards. He called me often, mostly to lament about how much he missed his ex girlfriend and how he was such a great guy. After a couple of weeks of this, I began avoiding his calls because it was getting ridiculous. Then he emailed me to tell me that it wasn’t working out between us. But he wanted me to know, “it’s not because of your harelip.”
Well. Feelings boiled up inside me that I hadn’t felt for years. I was so mad at him. First of all, for thinking that I was so insecure that I’d assume that the only reason a guy wouldn’t find me attractive was because of my lip. Second, he said harelip. What was this, 1875? The fact that his comments about my looks bothered me so much made me realize that even though physical scars may be long healed and mostly forgotten, there are often deeper emotional scars which are less visible, but way more complex.
I’m not a big fan of dwelling on unpleasant things. I’d much rather forgive and forget and move on. Or at least move on. When I was a child, I had a difficult time dealing socially with kids at school. I honestly can’t recall most of those experiences because I have not allowed myself to. But I remember enough to know that getting teased for looking different left me with a lot of emotional scarring.
I used to wonder what I would look like if I had been born without a cleft lip and palate. Would my nose look like my Mom’s or my Dad’s? What about my smile? I also wondered what my hands and feet would be like, and my hair. I have 3 younger siblings who all look pretty similar, so it’s not a stretch to imagine that without EEC, I’d probably look a lot more like them. I wondered what I’d be like without all the insecurities I had growing up. Would I still have been shy? Would I have been the class clown?
This alternate-reality version of me was ever present in my psyche as I grew up. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that it finally dawned on me: if I had been born without EEC, I wouldn’t be me. It’s not all that I am, but without it, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. Once I accepted this reality, I became so much more comfortable in my own skin. It was like I finally forgave my genes for making a mistake. I finally realized that there would be no opportunity for me to magically be transformed into someone else.
Coming to accept myself is a journey I’m still on. I have come a very long way from the shy little girl I once was, but I know that I can be so much more if I keep pushing forward. I’m hardly cognizant of my physical scars until something triggers those old emotions. Sometimes seeing a child looking curiously at my hands, or walking by a group of teenagers will strike a chord of fear inside me. I’m certain the child is going to make a scene, or the teenagers will shout something rude. And then I remember, I’m an adult. Even if those things happen, I am confident that I now have the skills to deal with the situation. I am more than what meets the eye.
There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with.