The Beauty In Imperfection

I embrace the stories my scars, flaws, and imperfections tell. They are each a snapshot of a moment in my life. I wear them every day and I cannot get rid of them.  I do not want to be rid of them. I welcome them and smile because of the stories they tell. These stories momentarily bring back to life people who are no longer here but were part of a particular scar’s origin story. The beauty in imperfection needs to be celebrated. I want to share the stories my scars tell so you can understand why I am proud to have them.

A Frog’s Heart

The scar across my chest is from open-heart surgery that provided me the gift of continuing to live this life.  And thank you to my surgeon for putting my scar from the center of my chest, under my breast, and into my armpit. My surgeon was a woman, I think that is worth mentioning, especially considering my surgery was quite a while ago.

The scar on my side is from the heart-lung machine. It pumped my blood for me while my heart was being repaired. 

The long scar in the crease of my leg where my leg joins the rest of my body is from the diagnostic test to find out why my heart at one-year-old was the size of an adult’s heart. Turns out, it had a hole and instead of blood pumping, it was just flowing causing my heart to technically only have three chambers.

“Like a frog’s heart,” my brother used to say.

Brothers are great.

The Eyebrow vs. Playground Equipment

The scar that runs through my eyebrow, splitting it in two, was from losing my focus and depth perception when I was in kindergarten. This caused me to walk into a piece of equipment on the school playground. As I stood in line to go back to class the gym teacher asked me what happened. I remember being shy and replying “Nothing.” Trying not to draw attention to myself. “Your face is bleeding,” he replied. I remember reaching up and touching it. I was not aware I was bleeding, looking down and seeing the blood on my fingers scared me.

So much for not drawing attention to myself.

I was brought to the school nurse.

I vividly remember feeling my mother holding my hand as we left the school and again as we entered the emergency room. My 8 ½ month pregnant mother held my hand and cried for me as they stuck numerous needles around my eye to numb the area to prepare me for stitches. 

The doctors were concerned she was going to give birth right there. They asked the nurse to take my mom out of the room; she went without argument. Although she didn’t want to leave me alone, she knew it was for the best. My mom did not give birth that day. But as a result of the day’s events, I got my first pair of glasses.

Me, Dad, and Grandpa

There is a small scar on the inside of my right palm from when I was a young child and “helping” my father and grandfather build something. I somehow cut my palm open on a nail.

More stitches.

I Have a Few Stories About Chin Injuries – Grab a snack

It all Started In New York

I first cracked my chin open when I was playing with my brother at our grandparent’s pool. For purposes of this story, it is important to know this pool was an above-ground pool. We would throw a ball up the peak of the garage roof, as it rolled back at us, we would catch it and fall backward into the pool.  But this time, my ball went up the roof, and instead of coming straight back down to me, it rolled to our left. Continuing to roll down and towards the front of the garage, I went after it. Keeping my eyes on the ball, I mirrored it as it rolled.

The garage roof went out further than the deck around the pool did.

I kept running even after the deck ceased to exist. I forgot about the difference in length.

Off to the emergency room with my mother and grandfather. My first set of stitches in my chin and a fractured arm.

The Chin and the Bike

The scar on my chin got more scariness when I split it open three separate times in one summer on the same rock…

over the same handlebars…

of the same bike…

trying to do the same maneuver.

The definition of insanity is playing in a loop in my brain as I write this.  

The Club

My youngest son has his own story to tell about a scar on his chin. As I stood in the ER with my son, I was transported back to how my mother was feeling all those years ago when I was in kindergarten. Not having pregnancy hormones running through me, I was not crying. But my son was young, he was not even walking yet. He cracked his chin open by crawling so fast he got his arm caught under his belly causing him to stop short and hit his chin on the hardwood floor.

Off to the ER.

I said to the doctors, “Just so you know, I will probably pass out when you start to stitch him.” I was extremely relieved when they told me they don’t stitch anymore, they use glue.

There were a number of adults in the room; the plastic surgeon to do the gluing, the ER doctor, and a nurse or two to help hold my son as they closed his chin. Other doctors and nurses were in and out of our section of the ER.  It was revealed through our conversations that five of the seven adults in the room had a scar on their chin. Of course, we all shared our stories… ask around, there’s a lot of us, we have a secret club.

Teenagers vs. a Semi Truck

The scar (and slight dent) on the top of my head is from a car accident I got in when I was in high school.  Me and two friends were on our way to meet up with friends and go skiing at The Abbey in Wisconsin.

We never made it. 

An 18-wheeler smashed into the side of our car going about 50 – 60 miles an hour.

We all lived. We were all fine.

The car was not.

We all walked out the hospital doors that same night. After our parents drove two hours to get us, wondering what condition they were going to find us in. This was before cell phones and constant communication.

The car was put on a stretcher of its own and brought to its final resting place. It served us well and held strong so our bodies did not get mangled. It paid dearly for protecting us all at a time when my father says, “We did not have a pot to piss in.”

We never seem to get in accidents when it is convenient.  

The Swear Finger and the Cyst

The scar in the crease of my hand connecting my “swear finger” to my palm is from the cyst that started growing around my finger and “choking” it.  I had to be awake for that surgery so I could move my hand from time-to-time to be sure everything was fine before the surgeon stitched my hand closed. 

I do not recommend being awake during any type of surgery, but that is just me.

Babies Lived There

The tiny patch of stretch marks on the lower right side of my abdomen is where all three of my sons rested their heads while they grew inside me. It will be a reminder long after my sons are grown and have families of their own that there were once four babies, three that lived, that I was blessed and lucky enough to have their lives begin and growing inside me. 

Six Screws and a Steel Plate

I have a 4-inch scar down the inside of my left wrist. This is how a metal plate and six screws are able to hold my wrist together – forever.  A few years ago, I slipped in my socks on the hardwood floors – another hardwood floor injury.

I wish I had a better story for this scar. It’s a cool scar with a dumb story.

As I was falling, I was trying not to hit my head on the table and landed awkwardly causing my wrist to snap behind my back. I heard it snap. I have watched enough hospital and emergency-type television shows to know about bones popping out of bodies. I had to look to see if I was “bleeding out,” as they say. 

Fortunately, my bone was not popping through my skin. No blood.

However…

My wrist was mangled, reminding me of the clocks in Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”. I tried to push it back into place. It wouldn’t move.  I started putting my shoes on to drive myself to the hospital. That’s when I started to sweat and feel faint.

I debated if this was something to call 911 about. After a short debate with myself, I decided it was and called.

While on with the operator, I took a picture of my arm. She told me not to try to push it back into place. “Too late,” I said, “I tried, but it didn’t move.” I blame it on adrenaline.

Paramedics and The Yankees

Living in the Chicago area, the paramedics were not sure if they should even help me after seeing pictures of the Yankees from the Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio days hanging on my wall. When I told them I’m from New York, so I’m allowed and I had tickets to the Cubs game in two days, they decided I was worthy of help.

Once in the ambulance, I texted the picture I took of my arm to my husband and family with the caption “So this just happened.” I toyed with the idea of making that picture the feature image for this story but decided not to.

You’re welcome.

The Forgotten Scar

The scar on the top of my toe, well, that one I don’t remember, but I am sure it remembers its story and I embrace it as much as the others. The lack of a story is its story. How it got there without stitches I am not sure. But it lives there, and I’m cool with that.

Random Sports Injuries

The knee that hurts and cramps up when it rains, has its own story about diagnostic dye, an allergic reaction to the dye, being moved to the emergency room, and my mom insisting they start treating me like I’m having an allergic reaction and stop treating me like I am hyperventilating. The ER doctor agreed with her and immediately gave me a shot. That stopped the reaction… and the diagnostic test was never completed. So I have a weak knee that likes to lock up on me sometimes. I also have a shoulder that pops and collapses when I lay on it or move it in a particular way. These carry no scars, but they are now flawed and imperfect from the damage that comes with years of playing sports.

The Scars You Can’t See

Those are the scars you can see. I have others that you can’t see. They were caused by disappointment and by my heart being broken. Broken and scarred by loss and by people. My heart will always stay a little broken because of missing loved ones who have passed on. There is another kind of broken. It comes from the existence of scars that accumulate from things people have said and done that have left permanent marks on my soul. Some haunt me, others sting a little and others still are bittersweet.

Regardless of whether you can see my scars, flaws, and imperfections, they are there.

Just like yours.

The Stories of My Life

The lines that grow and deepen around my eyes each hold the stories of the tremendous joys and great sorrows of my life. These lines carry stories even I have forgotten. Times when I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe and my stomach muscles hurt so much that even the next day I could feel a gentle soreness that brought a smile to my face. 

These lines carry the stories of the times I have cried from such deep sadness that I thought I would never recover from the particular loss I was grieving at the time.  They hold homage to the stories of my life.

Even the ones I have forgotten.  

I have earned them; I treasure them.  

Flashbacks

I love all of these stories. I think back to being in the waiting room of the emergency room with my mother and grandfather. I vividly remember my grandfather joking that he had better things to do with his night.

Me too, and I was only in first grade. And maybe he wasn’t joking.

When I fractured my arm, we were living in New Jersey, we were there just a year. I was born and spent my early childhood in New York, then a year in New Jersey. Before my arm was healed, we moved to Illinois. I remember walking into class on my first day at my new school, in the middle of the school year all shy with my head down and my arm in a sling. Imagine my relief when the girl who lived two doors down, the one I had just met days before, jumped up to welcome me.

Gratitude

Each of my scars has a great story to go with it. Stories that involve people who took care of me, comforted me and made me laugh to distract me. Some of those people have passed on but the memories of where they fit into each story make me smile. Collectively all my scars are the cornerstone of who I am.  All of these origin stories create the filter that I process and operate things through on a daily basis.

This is what makes us different from each other.  

These scars – visible or not – tell the story of my life and because of that, I love them all. The beauty in imperfection.

I do not waste time wishing for a body without these visible marks on them. I have no interest in erasing any of them. They bring me joy and tell the story of a life that has been lived with adventure, love, and happiness – and some stupidity.

It is in the flaws where true beauty is found. It is in the stories our scars, flaws, and imperfections tell where our life’s story unfolds.

Post Script

For anyone ashamed or embarrassed by their scars, I challenge you to look positively at them and the stories they tell. They are stories of strength and survival. When I had the surgery to fix my mangled wrist the surgeon told me if I massage the scar and put enough scar cream on it my scar could possibly disappear completely.

But I don’t want it to disappear completely.

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