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.