Diligent as I am with the SPF50, I can’t hide it. It’s mid-July. Morning runs down the Somerville Community Path, bike rides navigating pothole-punctured roads alongside horn-happy Boston drivers to and from my yoga studio, and easy strolls through outdoor arts fests nearby are turning my face a shade darker. Except for an egg-sized patch on my lower right cheek. There’s no pigment there. Get close enough, and you see it. No amount of sun block or Clinique “Even Better” foundation can cover it up. It’ll just melt off, leaving me with a stark reminder of a painful point in time 7 years ago.
And that’s a good thing. Really.
Because that scar, along with the others accumulated over my 46 years, has taught me what it means to be truly alive. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from getting a little banged up, and why you might consider celebrating your scars too:
1. I learned to shine without the gloss. The faint egg-shaped patch on my cheek, 7 years ago, was at that time a nasty abrasion that needed full exposure to air to heal properly. “No bandages!” my dermatologist warned, sending me off with a jar of prescription antibiotic goo to rub in multiple times a day. As you might imagine, I wasn’t too keen on heading back to my job as membership director of a swanky downtown athletic club, where on a typical day I conducted tours to prospective members, sat around a board table with upper management and tolerated the fast-witted tongue of a colleague who was sure to launch a jab or two at the open wound on my face. Embarrassment not counting as an approved reason for excused time off, I had to park my vanity and face the world. Looking back, I’m so glad I did. I got to share something of myself beyond the polished, glossy image I presented every day at my job to those who asked: that I had a passion for road cycling, trained every weekend, was preparing for a 200-mile ride at the time. I got to experience bold compassion from complete strangers: a young woman coming out of an elevator, for example: “I’ve been there. You’ll heal. Hang in there.”
2. Others want to help you – especially your mother. That same accident crushed my right hand, which broke my fall and got tangled in the spokes. After four days I finally called my mom (with my left hand). Dunking my head in the sink as she lathered shampoo and massaged my scalp transported me back to age four, when she did the same. Tears of love and gratitude helped rinse the grit – both physical and emotional, from my hair. A few months ago one of my favorite yoga teachers in class reminded us to not rob others of their opportunity to support us. I was in Downward Facing Dog, and the scars on my right hand took me back to that loving moment with my head under the sink, Mama washing away the pain.
3. Love bold enough to get hurt. It’s so worth it. My first foray into dog rescue work scared the shit out of me. The dogs that needed me most weren’t the little yappy cuties that fit into designer sweaters. More like muscular boxers and pitties whose barks rang several octaves lower. It took me three weeks to lock myself into Petunia’s dog run, slip her collar on, and somehow get her out into the field without face planting. But I did. Again and again for several months before relocating to another city. She and I would play until I ran out of gas, and when I settled into the Adirondack chair she’d climb into my lap and snuggle close. A white streak across my left ankle is a vivid reflection of the time she climbed up into my lap a little too quickly, eager to prove how much love she had to offer to the good soul out there who would one day adopt her.
So reconsider your scars. They could represent mistakes, yes. But also lessons. Awakenings. Pathways toward your heart center, your strength.