Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dear Scabs and Scars


Dear Scabs and Scars,

You play important roles in our skin's amazing ability to heal itself.  What's left after the healing process is the reminder of "once."  This happened.  You're the present to that painful past.

I have scars from skinning my knees.

The injuries happened a long time ago, over a period of quite some time.  They have scabbed and scarred.  Over and over in the same area.

I had once heard that if you pick at a wound over and over enough times, that the injured skin can turn cancerous.  At the time, I totally scoffed at the theory, thinking it was medically and scientifically impossible.  But a medical student friend assured me that it was possible.  I never found out if this is true or not--whether repeated skin injury can actually cause defect in the skin cell's DNA--but I never thought I'd really need to find out.

Long time ago, I'd walk down the path that I knew.  There would be certain obstacles--sticks and stones--along the way.  I'd trip, fall, and skin my knees.  I'd cry, gushing tears of pain and self pity.  Then I learned how to clean the wounds and allow them to heal.  But my falls happened often, and the scabs came and went.  Finally, the remaining scars reminded me to watch out for those sticks and stones while I walked my familiar path.

Later, I was able to find new paths that sported fewer objects to trip me.  Every now and then, though, the sticks and stones would show up and I'd stumble, scrape, bleed, scab, and scar again.  The stinging became less surprising and less traumatic--as I had resigned to expect it--though still just as painful.

The scars--which turned thick and rough--became "cushions" to new wounds.  The damaged nerve endings in them acted as desensitized barriers to the asphalt ground.  It took harder falls for the scrapes to actualize as the tougher skin became harder to cut.  Yet, in the battle between ground and skin, the penetrable loses; the living flesh tears; and the inanimate object always wins. 

Finally, I learned to wear "protective gear" to prevent the injuries even if I fell.  I discovered the possibility of preventative measures.  I can still fall, but I would be protected from breaking skin.  The fall would jolt me, but my knees would not sting.  I would not scab and scar.

I found a way to protect myself.

If I run my fingertips over the uneven scar tissue on my knees now, I feel a phantom sting.  In my mind, I see a helpless little girl crying over her poor, bleeding knees.  And all I want to do is tell her to put on long pants for all her Walks of Life.  No, I want to take her hand, and walk alongside her, so that I can guide her to newer, less bumpy paths.  I want to keep her from falling with my firm grip of her smaller hand.  I want to give her a big hug and tell her that she will be okay.

That those scabs will heal.

That her scars will be a living reminder of her past, should she decide to remember.

That they'll always be a part of her cautious and weary nature.

That they will eventually help her protect herself from future falls.

Now, I wear pants for two reasons: to keep from scraping my knees again, and to hide my scars.  I don't want any more pain, nor do I need reminders of what "once happened."  My scars are perfectly happy behind clothed fabric.

And I'm keeping the possibility of cancer the hell away from the skin on my knees.

Which now brings me to wonder: is it selfish of me to keep my scarred knees covered at all times?  To hide them behind protection so they'll never see the light of day again?  I don't know.  But what I do know is that wherever I go, I'll tread carefully.  

So, Dear Scabs and Scars, even though I had to endure you, you gave me knowledge in the wisdom of hindsight.  One day I'll stroll leisurely on a smooth, safe path void of any sticks or stones.

But probably not in this lifetime.

Sincerely,
Me

18 comments:

  1. I don't hide my scars, but ... I don't have so many of them that it's noticeable. But now you have me panicked - what picking at scabs can turn them cancerous? Where did you hear this? I needed nothing more to worry about! :)

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    1. Michelle, I was told that the skin had to be mutilated more times than crazily possible for it to happen, but that it was supposedly physiologically possible. It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around it. But I don't know this as a fact, so don't quote me on it. :) I don't really have a ton of scars on my knees. It was just easier to write about scars that way, except I didn't do it clearly. :( Boo me.

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  2. This works great as an extended metaphor, which is what I actually thought it was until closer to the end.

    Most of my scars are minor, but I have one that kind of looks like a squashed bug on my back, I used to proudly show that one off. It's out of sight most days now, and I forget it's even there.

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    1. Hi, Rachel, this was meant to be a metaphor... I guess I didn't finish off the piece to make my intentions clear. I was being vague and leaving room... Now I'm wondering how I should have concluded it. It was hard writing about wounds of the heart and be really open about it. Thank you for your comments!

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  3. And so it is with life - you fall, you get hurt, and heal, the hurt protects you and teaches you to be careful and at the same time, made you stronger. :)

    ~Imelda

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    1. I'm replying via email, per your request!

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  4. The thing about scabs and scars is that they are signs we're learning and growing. Each time we are hurt, we are more careful the next time, until our scabs are less frequent and scars fade away.

    Or we just wear long pants :)

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    1. Isn't that the truth?! Thanks, Janna, for your comments. Sorry for the late reply--we are visiting my grandmother on an impromptu road trip 12 hours away.

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  5. I have many scars on my hands and arms, and my skin tone makes them very obvious. They don't fade away, they are here to stay. They are part of my job, and of my gardening passion, I am proud of them, because it means I get jobs done, but in the summer people stare at my arms so I feel I should cover them.

    The scars of your soul will not turn into cancer, hopefully they made you a better person.

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    1. Laura, you probably just want to spare people of their stares. I wonder what people think when they see others' scars? Thank you for assuring me that my emotional scars will not turn into cancer--even though sometimes it sure feels that way. I do aim to learn from my scars and be a better person!

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  6. Very interesting metaphor between physical scars from falling and emotional/life scars from the hardships in our lives. That's the metaphor, right??? Haha. On the physical note, I was jogging at night and at a great pace. Suddenly, I was falling forward fast. My arms and body flailed, trying to regain balance. To no avail. I landed on my knee, then on my side, and watched as my iPhone slid out under me. It was dark, so no one saw, thankfully, because I was pretty beaten up. I picked up the pieces of my cell phone cover, my broken ear buds, and limped home, blood running down one leg. My husband, surprised to see me so soon back at the house, asked me what was wrong. I said I tripped. He saw my hands and nearly fainted. I said, well, don't look down. He saw my knee and had to sit down. Anyways, took about two weeks to heal. Thick scab and all. I was good though. I didn't pick at it. Scary that cancer could arise. Well, we can get cancer a lot of ways these days. On the emotional/life note, I think that painful boyfriend-girlfriend relationships in the past are still with me. Not that I have feelings for them, certainly NOT. But these relationships caused me a lot of pain. I grew up a lot because of them. I began to realize what I wanted and didn't want from a relationship. So, the scar was left, the wounds have healed, but I always remember them. Like you said, scars make the skin tougher. I am tougher because of those bad relationships. They were good learning opportunities. Thanks for sharing, Sandra!

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    1. Yikes, sorry to hear about your fall! Those kinds of scabs are painful--the thick, big, knee ones. Well, the kind of scab-picking to alter DNA would be so numerous that it's almost impossible to actually take place, so don't you worry.

      I agree with you about those relationship scars. The memories stay with you forever, even after the wound heals. They alter you as a person in a way that is hopefully for the better, and make you eventually less vulnerable. This is precisely the scar and pain I'm talking about! I'm sort of wondering if it's okay to hide myself from getting hurt at all costs, since it feels kind of selfish that way. But such questions may never have the right answers, huh? Thank you for reading, Lisa, and sharing your experiences with me! It makes me feel less alone...

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  7. Sticks and stones may break my bones... Loved reading this. So well put together. I imagined it in my mind while reading! Sure hope those knees are still okay!!! :)

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    1. Thank you, Susi! I remember that rhyme from childhood--one used to teach kids not to listen to the taunting of others ("sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"). I find it interesting that sticks and stones can break my skin, but what truly hurts are the words. There is something wise in this saying because the truth of it is: words really can hurt much more than broken skin that heals. When I took the picture of sticks and stones, I knew there was a saying about them, but could not remember! Thanks for filling in that gap for me!

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  8. It's funny...because I know you (or at least a little about you) through your work, I sought this out to be a complete metaphor. Even though the whole time I was reading this, I was picturing your knees! haha!
    In all seriousness, your scars are part of who you are and what you've overcome, big or small, to get where you are today. I have a hard time showing my scars (metaphorically and literally). It's hard to look back on that once trodden path and know that it all happened for a reason. But knowing I survived it and it's become part of my legacy gives me a sense of pride. It's so strange...
    Anyway, great post! I'm sending you band-aids :)

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    1. Cassie, you've given me a very positive way of looking at these scars. I know that those scars will be forever a part of me: they've made me who I am. So if I like myself--which I do--then they've done something good or positive for me. Thank you for that. And, Cassie? You ARE my Band-aid! :)

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  9. Scars is a storytelling tool. Each one, whether physical or emotional, tell a truth. You conveyed that beautifully. Lovely post, Sandra.

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    1. Alison, I really like that--'Scars is a storytelling tool'. Each scar tells a story and a truth. Sometimes the scars and truths teach us a good lesson, too. Thanks so much for visiting! :)

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