There is a tiny scar on my forehead from the time I dove face first onto my parent’s bed as my mom packed for a trip. I hadn’t calculated for the sharp metal clasp on the suitcase until I met it with my head, regretting my carefree dive immediately. That may have been the last time I leapt, un-calculated and unplanned into anything. It also did not help my childhood’s crippling fear whenever my mom went away.
There is a scar in my right cheek from an unfortunate run-in with a sweet and loving, but large and not spatially inclined dog who caught my generous face mid-bark as we snuggled on a chair. She narrowly missed my eye; and a few stitches later a newly developed distrust and discomfort around big dogs was sewn into my life.
My belly is covered in scars. I am constantly reassured that they are small and unnoticed. To me, however, they are often all I see when I look at my stomach in a mirror or put on a bathing suit. A constant reminder of the surgeries which attempt to restore health to my body, of the disease that forced my dreams to change trajectory at the age of seventeen and continues to challenge the dreams I replaced them with.
I read recently that scars “represent the exact instant we become different people.” Each scar on my body represents a change in the person I am.
I had dinner with a friend last night, someone I have known for a few years, but for whatever reason, in all the times we have talked about our lives we somehow always left out our stories. The real part of the story where the climax and plot twist happens, where the heroine is changed forever. We had never shared with each other the scars that changed us.
I listened intently as she told her story, one whose plot is strangely similar to mine. A driven childhood, stollen dreams, a period of feeling lost, then a new path she never could have picked if left unscarred and to her own devices.
“People get so stuck in the past” she said, lost in what could have or should have been, “but you drag yourself up, you pick a new dream.”
Isn’t that exactly what we need to do when we are scarred?
This process is one I participate in daily. Nurses are constantly involved in that moment of change both with our patients and their families. What a tender and vulnerable time to be present with someone. I often forget to appreciate this. The surgeries, the illnesses, the outcomes all become routine to someone like me who sees them everyday. But to my patients, to their parents, their world is changing forever. They are treading water in that sea of unknown, the pain is fresh, the wound is new. They don’t yet have that next dream, can’t yet see the healed scar that will come. For them it is a fresh cut, newly stitched, and no one can tell them when it will heal, how it will be. All of the vitamin E in the world can’t fast forward the scar to a place of healing with a new dream in your sight.
There is so much unknown in the pain of daily life, but there can be comfort in knowing a scar will come. A scar that will represent the moment you changed, that you survived that change, and lived to pick a new dream.
Whether these scars are in our hearts or on our bodies, we have no choice but to be changed by them. Natasha and I found nursing through the scars of lost dreams. My friend Warren Pfohl and his wife Brenda who I told you about recently found their new dream through the painful and life changing scar of losing their son David.
For those of you who work alongside me, help me to remember the the uncomfortable place my patients and their families are living through, the unknown and the pain. For those of you who live alongside me, my family and friends, help remind me love my scars rather than find shame in them. I hope to do the same for you.
I hope the dreams that lay ahead of your healing scars leave you as fulfilled, mystified, and amazed at the way a plot can twist as I am.