This past weekend I was up before The Mister (which is pretty common given our different schedules). I stood up to get a toy for Lucy the Cat as she was tackling her boredom by knocking my mail off of the ledge. As I took the second step in what should have been a quick three-step process, I stepped on one of Brooklyn the Dog’s Kongs and stumbled all over. Honestly, it was probably quite fun to watch. The only reason I didn’t fall flat on my face was because I hit the aforementioned ledge with a vengeance, pushing off all the mail that, ironically, I was trying to prevent from being knocked everywhere.
Falling and stumbling are not uncommon for me. If I don’t have at least five instances of injury-causing accidents a week, I start to wonder if I’m dreaming. Brooklyn the Dog has become really good at trying to aid me in these times of need. She seems to sense a real call of distress–even if it’s just the “ah-uh-ah-oh” that my Nana perfected and I have since assumed as my falling and stumbling soundtrack. She came over to me as I laid across the couch arm, cursing the fall and determining which parts of me were injured. My foot hurt. My leg was generally wobbly. But I was fine. She got in my face and sniffed me to make sure.
I stood up, straightened everything out and we went about our usual business.
A few minutes later, I started feeling this burning on my elbow. Now, despite all of my wise observations here (ha!) I can sometimes be rather daft when it comes to sensing the obvious. So it took me a good hour to figure out that I scraped my elbow. Nothing major. There was only minimal blood. But it burned like a mother f*cker.
Let me repeat that, as it bears repeating: it burned like a MOTHER F*CKER.
It continued to burn for three days that way. It was quite the perfect storm of scrape–not enough to allow full healing to start right away but just enough to feel like a tremendous rug burn. I’d go to move my arm, and there would be the reminder of my trip-and-fall, burning like the day it happened. I had The Mister take a picture of it last night so I could see the extent of the damage. Being that it’s on my elbow, it’s been hard to adequately view from my perspective.
This is idiotic, I thought when I saw it. It’s just a damn scrape.
As I thought about it over the next few days, though, it became clear to me that sometimes even the most superficial wounds are the ones that hound our every move. Anyone who has sprained their ankle knows that it’s far worse than breaking it–it’s harder to heal and more likely to get re-injured. The bulk of the scars I carry on my body (and there are quite a few) aren’t from the surgeries I’ve had or some epic testement of my strength. They’re from the everyday occurrences that just happen…
In the right light, you can still see a scratch on my belly from where my teenage family dog, Buddy (Buddy Threadgood) jumped up in excitement when I was wearing a loosely knit sweater and got his claw caught in it, dragging it along my abdomen on accident.
Every once in awhile I’ll look down and see the outline of a triangle-shaped scar on my right hand from riding my bike too close to the mailboxes when I was six or seven.
After my eyebrows have been waxed, there’s a clear outline of the cut that incurred my first stitches after I fell down the steps of the neighbor’s deck.
There are random bug bites that have turned into scars because I was too impatient and weak-willed to leave them be. There are discolorations from a few injection sites from the first IVF. There’s a ring around my left forearm that is a different color than the rest of my skin from a pair of pajamas when I was a toddler whose arm elastic was far too tight and left on me overnight.
I am a collection of scars. Some scars I cannot even explain their origins. They just appeared like random flowers in a field. Others have long stories. Still others come from a long line of random incidents. The funny thing about it is, though, that the ones that have hurt–the ones that left a scarred pain memory with their physical manifestation–are most often the very ones that were clearly superficial.
This has of course made me think about the most mundane of my emotional scars–arguments or words I carry with me about friends and family. Almost all of them that really still haunt me are superficial. An argument with Ms. MM about work stuff almost ten years ago. A comment made in jest by Mr. CVD that is older than all of my socks combined about a topic I can’t even remember. A phrase dropped by The Mister without any ill intention or real value, cutting like a knife. Something my father said when I was a child without thought, wrapping around me like a boa constrictor. Likes of omission that I know exist between me and others that neither one of us will claim.
All so superficial and pointless to remember, but those are the ones that haunt me regularly. They burn me like the scrape on my elbow that even as of last night, was tugging at my skin uncomfortably.
There’s a bigger point to this about letting go and forgiving. I don’t think I haven’t forgiven in these instances. I just think I’m terrible at forgetting them. But the larger point is how vividly I can remember these things compared to the ways in which those people have most recently impacted me. They don’t somehow count more, but they do burn more…and they’re that pain in the elbow that nags at me when I least expect it.
I know I need to let go. But these scars–all of them–literally make up the fabric of who I am. They are points on my skin and psyche that act as guideposts until the next bump or bruise. If I failed to let them affect me I might be happier, but then again I might never learn from them. If I hadn’t skinned my knuckle on the bank of mailboxes in my childhood, I’d still be riding my bike too close to objects today.
They’re warning signs on the track of life…slowing us down when we need to be slowed.
My elbow still is irritated. The skin around the forming scab pulls and tugs. I find myself reaching to my right elbow every so often to see what the problem is, only to be reminded of the scar’s origin and life. There’s no grand lesson from stumbling across a dog toy. That is, unless I find one in it.
And I think I just may have done that.