A Writing to Heal group that I am part of is writing about the following prompt (originally from Spiritual Memoir) this week:
Scar: Choose a scar on your body; write your scar’s story, exploring what it means to be scarred and other, internal ways you’ve been scarred.
The only physical scars I have that I ever pay any attention to are two small X’s on the palm of my right hand. During the summer of the year I was seven, I fell in a playground and badly scraped up my palm on some gravel. The skin healed rather quickly, but it had become infected. I am told that my entire palm had turned color, and the color was spreading up my fingers. Surgery was performed in order to place two tubes into my palm to allow for drainage. The exit site of each of the tubes is now one of the X’s cut into my palm.
In those days, surgery was a much bigger deal than I imagine it would be today. I don’t have all that many memories of my childhood, but I do remember the feeling of “going under” with the laughing gas. I remember waking up back in my hospital room with my hand wrapped in big white bandages and the blood soaked into the sheets where my hand had been laying during surgery. I remember the view out of my hospital room that night and the lights that made odd patterns on the building next door that I could see from window. I think I only stayed there the one night, but even that seemed long because I was anxious to get back home so I could help with shucking corn. (I had—still have—a great fondness for fresh corn on the cob, so the harvesting of corn from the garden was a high point of the summer for me.)
I also remember that my father was there. He was seldom home when I was young because he was always working, so the fact that he took time off to be there for my surgery made it seem like an even bigger deal in my young mind. I remember more about being excited to have time with him around than I do about any fear about the procedure. I even seem to remember that we stopped by the pool on the way to the hospital so he could see what my brother and I had learned in swimming lessons that summer. I have a clear memory that this was a big treat!
Looking back, it also taught me that being wounded or sick or helpless in some way was a good way to get attention from someone from whom I could not get attention when I was well. Being weak and needy was a way to buy love. That was the lesson I came away with anyway. As a little girl who for various reasons often felt that she had greater burdens on her shoulders than she was strong enough to bear, the idea that love could be bought by being weak when it sure wasn’t paying to be strong was an all-too-tempting idea.
As I look back from here, I can see how often I have allowed myself to appear weaker and needier than I am in the hopes that it would buy me the love I wanted. And also, frankly, in the hope that it would allow me to lean on someone else for a change. I have other reasons why I tend to hide my strengths, and I am aware of those gremlins. But it is only in the writing of this today that I recognize how this particular gremlin formed and how well it supports the messages I get from those other gremlins. The net result is that I tend to hide my strengths and emphasize my weaknesses. It’s no surprise really that a strategy like that has not produced the kind of relationships I had hoped for.
However, as I slowly begin to reclaim my strengths and the power to show them to the world, I will shift this dynamic into healthier patterns that will serve me better. And the next time I notice the scars on my hands, I can use the moment to remind myself of the corresponding scars on my heart that I am working on healing so I don’t lose the lesson.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.